At the beginning of this week’s parsha, God tells Moses that God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and established a covenant with them. God adds that God heard moaning from the Israelites, who were suffering at the hands of the Egyptians. God tells Moses that God will now lead the Israelites out of their bondage and that Moses should be their leader.
As I studied this parashah, I was immediately struck by the leaps of faith that are present in the text. First, why does God have faith in Moses to lead the people? What’s unique about Moses?
Second, why does Moses have faith in God? And third, how could Bnei Yisrael have faith in God or in Moses? They have been suffering for generations, and God had been absent.
I want to begin by sharing my thoughts on the relationship of faith between Moses and God.
How did they come to trust each other? The story of Moses began in last week’s parashah, Shemot. Moses was a shepherd, and as he was tending to his sheep, he saw a bush that was burning but was not consumed. Moses felt compelled to look at the bush. When he did, God called out to Moses, and Moses responded, “hineni.”
Our rabbinic tradition teaches us that that word hineni means, “I’m ready.”
This language is not the language of greeting or location, but rather is the language of faith.
It is the same word that Avraham used when God asked him to take his son Yitzchak and offer him as a sacrifice.
When Moses answers this way, it tells God something important about Moses. God knows that he has that same intensity or quality of faith that Avraham had generations earlier.
There is a Midrash that there were many people who came to the burning bush and God called out to many of them. Some saw it and looked at it but couldn’t hear God. Some could hear God but didn’t respond. Only Moses saw it, heard God and declared his readiness to enter into a relationship of faith.
What was the core quality that God was looking for in order to establish a relationship with Moses? I think it’s about Moses staying true to himself. Moses was raised as royalty in an Egyptian palace with power and culture and luxury. After he was told he was born to an Israelite, I think he felt a connection and let go of all he had. God needed Moses to lead with a strong sense of purpose.
The story was different for Bnei Yisrael. They weren’t ready to be a people of faith. If God had appeared to them in a burning bush, I am not sure they would have even been able to say, “hinenu.” We are ready. They had no proof of God’s existence, and they probably thought that if God did exist, God would’ve helped them already.
The text says their spirits were crushed by cruel bondage. In contrast to Moshe, Bnei Yisrael were not able to listen. Their slavery had oppressed their ability to have faith.
As I thought about these questions, I’ve wondered why certain people can easily have faith and that, for others, faith can take time.
This topic of faith is really interesting because faith has no rules or boundaries. You could ask go on your phone and say, hey Siri, “define faith,” and she’d probably give you an answer, but the truth is that the qualities that we need to have faith are very different for all of us. There’s not just one way of being faithful.
I believe that there is so much to learn and understand about faith.
I really love situations where events can turn either way. There’s no set formula for faith. Our experiences can lead us down different paths. We can’t predict the moment we will become aware of faith.
This feels important to me because trust and faith feel mysterious. In some ways, they are similar but in other ways very different. With faith, you don’t necessarily have experience with a situation or person. You can take what we call a leap of faith. Trust, on the other hand, is a concept that grows over time, and is not necessarily established right away.
Personally, I have trouble giving and accepting getting others to have faith in me.
I have done some things in my life that have affected other’s faith and trust in me.
At times I have acted in a way that has strengthened others’ trust in me. Especially when I am caring for my siblings and taking my school work seriously and being accountable. I’ve also had times when there was a breakdown in trust. For example, there have been times I haven’t shared the whole story of what needed to be told. Earning trust takes a long time to rebuild after breaking it.
Knowing how important this concept of faith is to our ancestors, I think our question now becomes how we can become people of faith in God, and be trusting of others and ourselves.
Eytan Luria ’21