Tuesday, January 13, 2015

why Hashem chose Moshe

Two quick thoughts on last week’s parsha:

1) When Moshe saw the burning bush and turned to look at it, the Torah writes, “Va’yar Hashem ki sar liros,” Hashem saw that Moshe turned to look, and then Hashem started speaking to him. Hashem sees everything – why does the Torah need to add specifically here that Hashem saw that Moshe had turned to look?  And what was special about the fact that Moshe came over to see the burning bush?  It must have been an extraordinary sight – wouldn’t anyone have turned to take a look?
The Seforno answers that “va’yar Hashem ki sar liros” is not just telling us what Hashem saw; it’s revealing to us why Hashem spoke to Moshe.  He explains that “sar liros” means “l’hisbonen badavar.”  Anyone who saw a sight like the burning bush would pause to take a look.  I’m sure you’ve all been on the highway when traffic slows because everyone takes a moment to stare at a car that’s pulled over or someone that got in an accident.  We look – and then we move on.  Moshe Rabeinu, however, looked and thought about what he was seeing.  He didn’t move on – he reflected. 

The Midrash Rabbah has a striking comment.  “…Ki sar liros” is not referring to Moshe’s turning aside to see the burning bush, but rather to his turning to see the suffering of the Jewish people in Mitzrayim. 
 אמר רבי יצחק מהו כי סר לראות אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא כי סר וזעף הוא זה לראות בצערן של ישראל במצרים לפיכך ראוי הוא להיות רועה עליהן
Why was Moshe elected?  The Seforno highlights Moshe’s ability to reflect and think deeply about what he was witnessing; the Midrash highlights his ability to empathize.
2) Later in that conversation Moshe says to G-d that he is not the right man for the job.  Mi anochi ki eilech el Pharoah?”  The Midrash writes:

אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי משל למלך שהשיא את בתו ופסק ליתן לה מדינה ושפחה אחת מטרונית ונתן לה שפחה כושית אמר לו חתנו לא שפחה מטרונית פסקת ליתן לי כך אמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבון העולמים כשירד יעקב למצרים לא כך אמרת לו (שם מו, ד) אנכי ארד עמך מצרימה ואנכי אעלך גם עלה ועכשיו אתה אומר לי לכה ואשלחך אל פרעה לא אנכי הוא שאמרת לו ואנכי אעלך גם עלה

 According to the Midrash, “Anochi” should have a capital A/Aleph.  Moshe was reminding Hashem that he had promised that He would be with Klal Yisrael in galus and that He would take them out.  It was His job -- so why was he sending Moshe?
If that’s what Moshe’s argument was, then how does the next pasuk answer his complaint?  Mi sam peh l’adam…” – Who other than Hashem has given man the ability to speak, to hear, to walk, etc.?

I think the answer Hashem is giving is that his promise did not mean that Moshe and Bnei Yisrael were to sit and do nothing and wait for a miraculous redemption to take place.  Hashem was telling Moshe that He empowered Moshe to speak, to confront Pharoah, to listen to Bnei Yisrael.  The “Anochi” that will being the redemption is not out-there waiting to swoop in of its own accord, but rather it’s inside Moshe and the rest of Bnei Yisrael, it’s inherent in their actions and their efforts. 

1 comment:

  1. Yashar koach, I like both of these very much.

    I think there is an interesting tension and dichotomy in Shmos -- already in the chumash itself, and definitely in the mefarshim -- between the importance of righteous human beings taking initiative, on the one hand, and on the other hand the importance of perceiving Hashem as the only real power that matters. One way to read these midrashim is as a kind of dialog between these two important themes. Hashem wants the righteous person to respond, to turn and look, to act; while Moshe insists who am I, isn't this a "job" for God Himself? Ultimately the resolution is that both elements are necessary for geulah.