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Parashah (portion) Shemot -Trusting the Light Within
Exodus 1:1 – 6:1

This week marks the beginning of the book of Exodus. With its early chapters begins the story of Moses, the towering figure of the biblical narrative whose life will be at the center of the next four books of the Torah. Though these first verses do not seem to explicitly set Moses’ birth as a supernatural phenomenon (no pre-birth announcements like for Isaac or Jacob for example,) commentators like Rashi (11th century, France) read the mystical into the text. Rashi tells us that when Moses was born his entire house filled with light. As the text relates, the 130 years old Yocheved, Moses’ mother, saw–looking at her newborn baby–that he was good. Rashi reads into Yocheved’s words an echo of God’s pronouncement in His creation of the primordial Light. For him, Moses’ birth becomes an event of cosmic significance.

Trust is the midah/the value we, as a community, are focusing on this month. But whereas Joseph in the previous Torah portions was the perfect embodiment of trust, Moses, in his early years displays everything but. His impulsive use of violence in his murder of an Egyptian was not the act of someone radiating trust. And if that wasn’t enough, Moses, afraid for his life after this event, flees from Egypt. Certainly violence and fear are not attributes of a man acting from a deep place of trust. Moses’ lengthy exile is an exile away from source, away from self. One day, the shepherd he has become drives the flock into the wilderness of Mount Horeb. Horeb, in Hebrew, means “desolate” or “waste land.” Moses’ lack of trust had eventually driven him to the most desolate of places, at the far end of his own exile. There, Moses had become a dried-out, thorny, and isolated lowly bush lost in the middle of the wilderness, who had forgotten the Divine Light that his mother saw in him. But there also, at the most desolate point in his life, Moses lives through a peak experience, symbolized by the mountain of Horeb. What Moses encounters at Horeb in the image of the burning bush is a mirror. In that mirror he sees himself. He sees the withering bush he has become but also the light (in the image of that burning flame) that was still radiating from within him. Out of his own light came the call. But Moses is still not trusting. His conversation with God who chooses him to free His people from slavery echoes many of our own inner dialogues: Who am I to be a leader? No one listens to me. I am not good with words. Moses even begs God to “make someone else Your agent.” (Exod. 4:13) But God believes in Moses more than Moses believes in himself. Moses’ “burning bush” moment marks a turning point, sending him on a literal journey back to Egypt while initiating the spiritual journey to his own Light; a journey of extraordinary trust that will take him to the edge of the Promised Land.

Why is it that along the way we become identified with an ordinary bush and forget the light that our mother saw in us from day one? When did we lose our ability to know the beings of radiant light that we are? Have we let fear and anger cloud our capacity to remember? Some tell us that we shrivel up because we are afraid of the power of our own light. Have we grown afraid of life? Perhaps like Moses, our journey of healing is a journey toward greater trust; trusting ourselves, trusting another, trusting Life. Trust is the force that will allow our heart to open, the energy that will transform us into better lovers, friends, parents or anything else we happen to be. May we find the courage to know and trust in our own inner Light.

© 2010 Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, All rights reserved.