Let my people go!
…To be clear, the service is not over.
[hold for laughter]
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses confronts Pharaoh, demanding that he free the Israelites.
We tell the story of the exodus from Egypt every year on Passover because of the universal themes of persecution, faith and liberation from bondage.
Moses and Pharaoh actually have some things in common. They both hold positions of privilege and power, especially compared to the enslaved Israelites. And they both receive messages from God.
The difference is how they respond. God speaks to Moses through a burning bush. Moses is reluctant to serve as God’s messenger.
He could have continued to live in exile while his people suffered, but he delivered the call for freedom — right before the slaves were about to put the nose on the Sphynx.
Moses had to overcome his stutter and the supreme power of the Pharaoh to answer God’s call.
God brings plague after plague on the Egyptians, but Pharaoh refuses to recognize a higher power, even as it devastates his people.
There are so many lessons from this story. The one that stood out to me was recognizing something bigger than yourself and understanding your role in it.
Moses answers the call. Pharaoh ignores it.
Life is full of Moses Moments. It’s normal to have a first reaction that’s about us — about what we want or expect for ourselves. The question is, can you see the bigger picture? Then, work to figure out how you fit into it.
Consider Covid, a time we all were closed off from the world. In 3rd grade, I was disappointed when everything shut down. I couldn’t go to camp that summer and couldn’t spend time with my family or friends.
But, looking back, I can appreciate all the lifesaving work people were doing — and that I could do my part by social distancing, masking and getting vaccinated.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to make a Moses Moment…
Last year, we played a soccer tournament in Indiana. The host team beat us 3-0 on Sunday morning, but because of our record, we got to have a rematch that afternoon. The game was tied 1-1, so it went into a shootout. I was nervous … I felt ready … mom’s spaghetti...
Then it was over. The outcome was decided before I got my shot.
I was devastated. It was a long ride home from Indiana and it took me a while to accept that the tournament wasn’t about me taking a penalty kick. We had played our best game of the year. I had the assist on our only goal and helped lock down our defense to keep them from scoring again. Looking back, I am so proud of our whole team. The lessons from that tournament inform how I hope to lead the team as a co-captain this year.
At dance, it’s fun to be featured in the center of the stage, but it’s the ability of everyone to learn and perform the choreography together that makes us successful.
My biggest Moses Moment came after Grandpa Joe was diagnosed with cancer. When we were in elementary school, Grandpa Joe picked us up from school every other day. We would spend our afternoons reading and playing backgammon. He even hid little presents in his magic hat… Or maybe it was really magic.
We visited Grandpa Joe in the hospital on Father’s Day and I got to see him a couple times at the rehab facility before I left for camp. It was scary, but he was always excited to see us.
At camp, I remembered it was his birthday and got to send him a card and a picture by email, since the mail would have taken weeks to get to him from Algonquin Park.
The day I returned from camp, Grandpa came home to begin hospice care. I was used to summers being all about fun experiences going to Northport and Torch Lake — and Grandpa Joe being part of those memories, even if he was happier on shore than in a kayak.
This was different … and it was hard at first. But I started going over to his house on my own to hang out. I got to know the caretakers who were there to make sure he was comfortable. As hard as it was to see him like that, he was still a great listener to all my stories and we got to watch the next episode of Only Murders in the Building every week.
I am glad I was able to be there for him in the same way he was always there for me.
The story of Moses and Pharaoh extends beyond our individual experiences to the world around us. The greater the problem, the harder it is to step into the Red Sea.
The closest things to burning bushes and plagues that we encounter today are the effects of climate change. It is tempting to think that our own actions don’t matter, but there is a role for everyone in helping our planet.
I used to associate Ruth Bader Ginsberg with candy, since I dressed up AS her for Halloween and was very successful trick-or-treating. But she is more than just a costume.
Justice Ginsberg is a great example of standing up for vulnerable people. She helped protect the rights of women and girls through her supreme court opinions. RBG held one of the most powerful positions in the country, but, as a woman and a Jew, she was part of a minority on the Supreme Court. In the same way Moses gave voice to his people, she spoke up for those whose rights were at risk.
Here’s what she said about her dissenting opinions:
They speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope — that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.