December 19, 2013
O Purest of Souls - D’var Torah Sh’mot
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 and then as he 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 chose him to be his most intimate prophet?
Moses was a complex man; passionate, pure, just, humble, at home nowhere, carrying always his people’s burdens while hearing God’s words.
Moses was absolutely unique, the only prophet to speak panim el panim (“face to face”) with God, and that is what my drash-poem is about. Moses is the most important Jew in our history and our gold standard of a religious, moral and political leader.
In our own time the world has benefited from great leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and President Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless, Moses stands alone.
So often we walk in a daze, / Eyes sunk into creviced faces / Fettered to worldly tasks / And blind to rainbows.
I imagine Moses, in Midian, like that, / Brooding in exile, / Burdened by the people’s suffering, / Knowing each day / Their screaming in stopped-up hearts / And their shedding of silent tears.
A simple shepherd he was, / Staff in hand counting sheep / Until one day / Weaving through rocks /Among bramble bushes he heard / Thorns popping. / Turning his head / His eyes opened / As if for the first time.
God had long before / taken note of him, / From his birth, / But waited until this moment / To choose him as Prophet.
Dodi dofek pit’chi 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 God’s voice / and beheld angels, / His soul flowing in sacred rivers / Of Shechinah light.
‘Why me? / Why am I so privileged / To behold such wonder? / Unworthy as I am!’
God said, / ‘Moses – I have chosen you / Because your heart is burdened / and worried, / Because you know the world’s cruelty, / and you have not become cruel. / Nor do you stand by idly / when others bleed.
You are a tender of sheep, / And you will lead my people / With the shepherd’s staff / And inspire them / To open their stopped-up hearts / without fear.’
His eyes opened as in a dream / And he heard a soft-murmuring-sound / The same that breath makes / As it passes 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; /
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, / And the living suffer / A thousand deaths.
You must take them out! / Every crying child – / Every lashed man – / Every woman screaming.
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 / And turning to Me / To become 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 / And free every human being – / My cherished children all – / That the world might not be consumed / In flames.
That book I give to you / O purest of souls.