Jewish Journal

A Pure Soul - Parashat Shmot - A poem in honor of Moses and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

by Rabbi John Rosove

January 12, 2012 | 7:11 am

The Book of Exodus is essentially a story about God’s saving love for the oppressed Israelites. It begins with the birth of Moses and follows him as a young prince turned into a rebel and outlaw, then a shepherd, and finally THE prophet of God.

Why Moses? What was so unique about him that God should choose him to be His most intimate of prophets?

Moses is a complex man; passionate, pure, just, humble, at home no where, carrying always the burdens of his people and the word of God.
God identified him because he was unique, and that is what my drash-poem below is about; namely, the uniqueness that would draw Moses out to become the most important Jew in history.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., though not Moses, was a prophet for our times, and on this weekend we celebrate his legacy.

Shmot – A poem

A Pure Soul - A Poem

So often we walk about in a daze,
Eyes sunk in creviced faces
Fettered to worldly tasks
Unable to glimpse rainbows.

I imagine Moses, in Midian, like that,
Brooding in exile,
Burdened by his people’s suffering,
Knowing that each day
They scream from stopped-up hearts
Shedding silent tears.

A simple shepherd Moses had become
Staff in hand
Counting sheep
Until one day
Weaving through rocks
Among bramble bushes
The shepherd heard thorns popping.
Turning his head
His eyes were opened
And he would never be the same.

God had from his birth taken note of him
And waited until this moment
To choose him as prophet.

Dodi dofek pitchi li
A-choti ra-yati yo-nati ta-mati.

“Open to me, my dove,
my twin, my undefiled one.” (Song of Songs 5:2)

Moses heard the Divine voice
His eyes beheld angels
His soul flowed with a sacred river
Of Shechinah light.

‘Why me?
Why should I behold such wondrous things?
Unworthy am I!’

God said,
‘Moses – I have chosen you
Because you are soft
Because you weep
Because your heart is burdened and worried,
Because you know this world’s cruelty
Yet you have not become cruel
Nor do you stand idly by.

You are at heart
A tender of sheep,
And you will lead my people
With the shepherd’s staff
From Egypt
And teach them to open
Their stopped-up hearts
Without fear.’

Trembling, Moses peered a second time
Into the bush aflame
Free from ash and smoke.

His eyes opened as in a dream
And he heard a soft murmuring sound
Like the sound breath makes
Passing through lips.


Two voices—One utterance!
He hid his face
For the more Moses heard
The brighter was the light
And he knew he must turn away
Or die.

The prophet’s thoughts were free
Soaring beyond form
No longer of self.
To this very day
There has not been a purer soul than his.

God said, ‘Come no closer, Moses!
Remove your shoes
Stand barefoot here
on this earth
For I want your soul.

I am here with you and in you
I am every thing
And no thing
And You are Me.
I see that which is and which is not
And I hear it all.

Take heed shepherd/prince
For My people‘s blood
Calls to me from the ground
The living suffer still
A thousand deaths.

You must go and take them out!
Every crying child
Every lashed man
Every woman screaming silent tears.

And Moses, know this
“With weeping they will come,
And with compassion will I guide them.” (Jeremiah 31:8)
The people’s exile began with tears
And it will end with tears.

I have recorded their story in a Book
Black fire on white fire
Letters on parchment
Telling of slaves
Seeing light
Turning to Me
Becoming a nation.

The Book is My spirit
The letters are My heart
They are near to you
That you might do them
And teach them
And redeem My world
That it might not be consumed in flames.


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Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed his duties as Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in November 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he earned a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley...

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