Sunday, December 31, 2017

Parashat Shemot: Loneliness

A Message for Parashat Shemot 2017
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And God saw that he had turned aside to see, and Hashem called to him from the midst of the bush and said “Moshe, Moshe!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Shemot 3:4)

…And God’s messenger called out to him from the heavens and said, “Avraham, Avraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Bereshit 22:11)

Moshe’s first encounters with God bear several striking parallels to Avraham’s experience at the Akedah. The way in which God first addressed the individuals and how they responded is identical. Each underwent fateful moments on identified mountains – Har HaMoriah by Avraham and Har Horev by Moshe. Both missions centered around the destiny of a “unique son” –  Avraham’s Yitzhak, and God’s “My son, my firs-born, Israel” (4:22). And both Avraham and Moshe experienced the near murder of their son – Avraham by his knife-wielding hand, and Moshe by God, who “sought to put him to death” on his way at a night camp (4:25).

Most important among these parallel narratives, however, is the immediate aftermath of the individual’s adherence to the command of God.

Avraham’s ascent to Har HaMoriah progressed as a joint mission with his son, the verses twice stating “And the two of them went together” (Bereshit 22:6,8), but his retreat from the mountain was alone – “Avraham returned to his young men, and they stood up and went together to Beer Sheva” (22:19). Avraham experienced the tragic irony of reaching the height of his relationship with God at the very moment his connection to his son was diminished.

Moshe’s mission began with the support of others, as well. Following an emotional embrace with Aharon, the brothers addressed the elders of the nation who “believed and heeded” (Shemot 4:31). The two then addressed Pharaoh, as commanded by God, but were met by an angry group from the nation upon their departure. The group shouted at them, “Let God look upon you and judge, for you have made us repugnant in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants” (5:21). It was then that Moshe came to know the lonely existence of an eved Hashem. It was a state-of-being first endured by his great-grandfather Avraham, several hundred years before.

The person who finds God is homeless, fatherless, and childless – not biologically but spiritually. He is related neither to his parent nor to his child; he has to give up and disengage. (R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik)[1]

The similar stories of Avraham and Moshe are the sobering paradigms of true commitment to God. The life of an eved Hashem necessarily entails difficult moments of loneliness. As we strive to become genuine servants of God, we must be prepared to summon our courage and strength during those moments of separation, when choosing His word over that of society.