WHO ME? COULDN'T BE!
Rabbi David Walk
Before I get to my Torah thought of the week, I must make an embarrassing confession. I LOVE movies. I watch more movies that I should, and I remember movie plots and trivia forever. As a rabbi and teacher, there are times when I'm teaching a class or I'm studying a text, and in my mind I'm comparing the material to a movie scene, and I've got to resist letting on that my mind has gone off to the silver screen rather than the parchment folio. There are already a lot of people who think that I'm crazy, I'd rather not convince them of the point. So, please, forgive me that I want to make two points this week, which are movie based. When I ponder the stories here at the beginning of the book of Exodus, I not only think of Rashi's comments and Maimonides' philosophy, but I can't ignore the p'shat of Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments, 1956) and the drash of that Jewish triumvirate of Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen (Prince of Egypt, 1998). But this year while comparing a clip from the two films for my classes at
In 1956, Cecil B. DeMille refused to reveal who did the voice of God, out of respect for the sanctity of the scene. He took this movie very seriously. However, the voice is really deep and impressive. I guess appropriate to a Deity. In 1998 when making its famous animated version, the SKG team decided to use Val Kilmer who also voiced over for Moshe to do God. I think that that is really a cool idea. The voice of God is heard by everyone as their own voice. We all experience God in our own way. So, that at
That was all in last week's Torah reading, and the parsha ended with Moshe saying: O Lord! Why have You harmed this people? Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people (Exodus 5:22-23). Moshe is still trying to vacate this task. But by the midpoint of this week's Torah reading Moshe is totally committed to the mission, even though it has barely begun. What happens at the beginning of this parsha to convince Moshe of his connection to this job? I believe that there are two issues which convince Moshe that he must play this part.
Our parsha begins with God explaining to Moshe that the relationship with the Patriarchs was different than the new situation being forged with the generation of the bondage. Our earlier forebears discovered God through the powers of nature, and preferred to call God the Being of unlimited power (Eil Shadai). While the Children of Israel in Egypt would be introduced to the real character of God, Who is eternal, compassionate and the author of miracles which guide the course of history and human destiny. I believe that the critical statement is: I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the Lord (6:8). The heirs of the Patriarchs don't inherit, they receive the covenant as a heritage (morasha), which they are committed to pass along intact to their progeny. This profound concept of generational responsibility begins to weigh upon Moshe, but is not alone sufficient to bring him to accept the role of redeemer.
After this theological presentation, the Torah records Moshe's genealogy. We recapitulate the births of the tribes until we get to Levi, and then continue with the family tree leading to Moshe. Why this digression? Why this repetition? I think that it's for Moshe's sake. Moshe is going through a sixty year long identity crisis. When Moshe had to run away from
All Jews must go through this process, especially in the Diaspora. How much am I going to commit to the mission of the Jewish people? Well, that depends on the level of my connectedness to this historical entity. The more I feel ownership of this ageless tradition, the more I will fight to make sure that it gets passed on to the next generation. My identification with this past defines my commitment to the future.
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