Insight on the Weekly Torah Reading: Zot HaBracha

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Moses, the man of God

By Avi Lazerson

In this week's Torah Portion, Zot HaBracha, the last Torah portion in the yearly cycle of portions, we reach the end of the fifth book of the Torah. In this week's portion, Moses, at the age of 120, the faithful lawgiver, reaches the end of his life. G-d himself tells Moses that he is about to die and how he is to go about dying. Moses is crowned with the description as the "man of G-d" and the "servant of G-d"

Clearly, there was no person with a greater influence on the Jewish people in particular or on mankind in general than Moses. Besides having his writings, i.e., the bible, studied and read by more people on the globe, two of the popular world's religions were strongly influenced by the writings of Moses, so much that they even incorporated his writings as their own.

Even more so, perhaps a greater achievement than the writings themselves were the achievements that Moses achieved. Not just a prophet, and more than the greatest of the prophets, Moses spoke "face to face" with G-d. If Moses was this great, perhaps we should take some time to reflect on his life and draw from it for our own life. What was it that gave Moses his greatness? What qualities did he possess to reach such achievements, that has yet to be surpassed?

Moses was born at a time a decree was made against the Jewish babies. Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish boys were to be killed. His mother hid during her pregnancy and gave birth in secrecy. After several months, fearing that he would be discovered, she put him in a small ark/boat and set him adrift in the Nile.

Of all persons to find him, Pharaoh's daughter found him. Yet, sensing that he was a "Hebrew" she hired a Hebrew wet nurse to nurse him. Of course, we know that the wet nurse was really his mother.

Nevertheless, Moses grew up in the palace of the king of the mightiest kingdom in its time, in the home and bosom of the powerful Pharaoh. During a period of time when his fellow Jews were suffering the torturous pangs of bitter Egyptian bondage and were reduced to national slaves, Moses enjoyed the advantages of the royal family and its appointments.

Yet we know that his heart was always with his people. When he went for a walk and saw an Egyptian bondsman whipping a Jewish man, Moses stood up for him and killed the Egyptian. This caused Moses to run for his live and seek refuge in the neighboring area where Pharaoh could not reach him.

Moses married the daughter of Yetro, a local priest, yet Moses remained loyal to his G-d and to his people. He took upon himself the occupation of a shepherd until finally in the episode of the burning bush, G-d revealed himself to Moses and commanded him to return to Egypt to lead the Jewish people out of their slavery. Moses, as we well know, declined the offer, suggesting his older brother, Aaron, who was a known leader already working in Egypt for the benefit of the Jewish people.

Now we must understand this in light of what was happening, can you really picture G-d coming down from heaven and in his terrible glory requesting you to do something, could you really refuse? Yet Moses tried to refuse. And we will see that this is the clue to the greatness of the man Moses.

As we know, Moses did go down to Egypt and take the Jews out. But first he had to deal with a new Pharaoh who was not easy to convince and the Jewish people who also had their misgivings about leaving a "comfortable" slavery. Through out the journeys in the wilderness, Moses had to deal with the grumblings and rumblings of the discontented Jews.

At the pinnacle of his "career" he went up to Mount Sinai, twice, fasted for 40 days and forty nights and brought down the Ten Commandments. Which of course inspired a movie.

Yet the key to Moses "greatness" was to be found in the fact that Moses was only for G-d and his chosen people. In his life nothing had meaning except for G-d and the Jewish people. So much was this Moses's life, that we G-d decide that he wanted to kill all of the Jewish people and make Moses's children the new chosen people, Moses refused adamantly and protested that it would be a desecration for G-d to do so due to the fact that the heathen nations would say that G-d was not capable of taking the Jewish people to the promised land.

On one side we see Moses completely given over to being the servant of G-d, yet on the other hand we see that he was not afraid to speak and act if something was not correct.

Moses was called the "man of G-d", the "servant of G-d", and the "most humble man". Yet we see that his humility was only in proximity to his realization that G-d ran the world and that the Jewish people were his chosen people. He realized his work was to take them out from Egypt and bring them into the promised land, the land of Israel.

We, too, can learn from Moses. Although it is ridiculous to believe that we can become another Moses, yet in our own world in our sphere of influence, we can achieve what he did. He completed his personal mission in this world. He knew what he was here for and he fulfilled that purpose on earth. We also are charged with an individual and communal purpose. It is incumbent upon us to discover our purpose and it to the collective goal of the Jewish people - and that is to bring down the revelation of G-dliness into this world.

By each of us, we have our piece of the world that we must repair. Each of us was created differently, with different "tools". Yet each of us can reach that level of Moses, the level of fulfilling our specific task in this world.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!

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