On this Sabbath in the midst of the festival of Passover, we have special readings from our sacred texts. If we look at these stories carefully and in context, Moses teaches us powerful lessons that will enlighten our path as we go forward from our Seder tables.
Let’s take a look.
In Exodus, we read that Moses seeks to know more about the nature of God. Moses believes this knowledge is crucial to the people’s wellbeing.
In response, God assists Moses in the preparation of the second set of tablets, which re-affirms the important place of Divine guidance in our lives. Then, God shows Moses the Divine attributes of compassion, mercy, loving-kindness, truth, and justice. These are invaluable to a people who believe they are created in God’s image, for it is these attributes that they seek to make their own.
What we may forget, but shouldn’t, is how far this dialogue between Moses and God has come in just a couple of chapters.
Do you remember that it wasn’t long before when God confronted Moses upon the people’s creating the golden calf? “Go descend, because the people that you have brought up from Egypt have acted corruptly. Now leave Me alone, and My anger will be kindled against them so that I will annihilate them…”
How did we get to a felicitous state of affairs from such a horrific one? I think the extraordinary turn has a great deal to do with Moses’ leadership, specifically his remarkable response to the existential crisis he faced.
First, Moses did not leave God alone. He pushed immediately to assuage the Divine wrath. He reminded God that these are His people and this is His mission. What would the failure of that mission mean to the world? Moses’ love, courage and commitment drove him to demonstrate a saving advocacy that turned the Divine heart.
Moses then went to the people to chastise them for their profound wrongdoing and punish those responsible. The purpose for which God freed the people from Egypt could not be fulfilled in the presence of apostasy.
Because of Moses’ bold action, God offered the people an angel’s protection on the way to the Promised Land, but not His.
Moses knew this was not enough. The challenges the people would confront required God’s presence. So, Moses persisted and pressed for greater closeness with, and support from, God.
This, amazingly, is the prequel to the story we read this week!
By his remarkable example, Moses showed that, in what we decide and do, we matter in the world; in fact, we can matter in life-giving and life-changing ways. Out of love and commitment, Moses developed and executed a strategy that contributed to a radical change in the fate of the people. Once vulnerable to destruction, they are now destined to be a light unto the nations.
Finally, there is a lovely, poignant tie between this week’s verses from Ezekiel and our lessons from Moses.
Ezekiel has a vision in a valley in which God revives the bones of the dead. After Ezekiel’s prophecies, a legion of the newly alive arises. God tells them, “I will bring you to the soil of Israel; then you will know that I am God.”
When God thought to annihilate the people for their apostasy, wasn’t the spot below the mountain as if a valley destined to be filled with the dead? And, didn’t Moses help revive the people, as did Ezekiel when he prophesied in the valley?
We would do well in this week of Passover to think of ways in our own lives in which we can emulate the courageous and saving deeds of Moses, our great teacher. For, as he changed his world, we can change ours.