January 3, 2002
A Portion of Parshat Shmot
It's a new year and a new book of the Bible. Last week we finished Genesis. This week we start Exodus. In it we will follow the Israelites' move from slavery to becoming a free nation. Have you decided to free yourself of anything this year? Are you letting go of watching too much Nickelodeon or being glued to your GameBoy? What will you become free of this year?
When God tells Moses that he must be the Israelites' leader, Moses says, "But they will not listen to me. It is difficult for me to speak."
Rabbis have a famous Midrash about this verse:
Pharaoh's astrologers discovered that Israel's leader had been born. They wanted to find that leader and kill him. In order to test Moses, they placed a plate of jewels and a plate of coals in front of him. They figured, if he goes for the jewels, he's the future leader. Moses did indeed go for the jewels, but an angel took his hand and moved it to the burning coals. Baby Moses burned his hand and put it in his mouth, thus burning his tongue. From that day on, he could not speak well.
What is a Midrash? It is a story that the rabbis write in order to answer a question. In this case, the question is: "Why is Moses unable to speak?" The Midrash tells us this story for a reason. It says: Yes, it may seem cruel to have to hurt a little baby like that, but it had to happen if the Israelites were going to be saved. It says: Sometimes you must look past the immediate hurt and understand the good that will come from it.
"The Market Wedding," by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Regolo Ricci. October 2000. For ages 5-10
Two poor shopkeepers fall in love, spend all their savings on a very fancy wedding. Their friends, who are poor, don't feel that they are good enough to attend. But the newlyweds won't experience any joy if their friends can't share in the simcha. Read and find out how it ends. Richly detailed illustrations of old Toronto add a nostalgic feel to this story, based on an old tale by Jewish writer Abraham Cahan.