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A Special Shabbat Message From Rabbi Suson

01/12/2018 09:45:56 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

In this week’s Torah portion, the Exodus story is heating up. After a failed negotiation with Pharaoh, God instructs Moses to return to the palace with the demand, ”let my people go.” However, before Moses carries out this command, the Torah interrupts with a puzzling list of genealogies, concluding with Moses and Aaron.

Rashi explains the reason for the mention of their ancestry is to establish that the brothers descend from the tribe of Levi. Nevertheless, why is it so important that we recall the lineage of Moses and Aaron now, of all times, when the narrative is just getting good?

When the story resumes, Moses and Aaron accost Pharaoh, literally - while he’s using the toilet. That is significant because the Egyptian people looked to Pharaoh as a god. He was more than their leader - he was their divine ruler. To them, Pharaoh was more than human and untouchable. By approaching Pharaoh early in the morning, as he was taking care of his basic hygienic needs, they sent a not so subtle message:

We’re on to you. You think you’re a god but you’re a fraud. We recognize only one true God of the Hebrews and we will show you His awesome power.

It is then that Moses dips his staff into the river, where Pharaoh bathes, as God delivers the first plague and the river turns to blood.

By contrast, Moses and Aaron were indeed the greatest prophets who ever lived but they were merely human. The Torah reiterates that fact by interjecting a brief summary of their lineage. By reminding us that they were only flesh and blood, we glean two very important lessons.

1) While people sometimes wield power and authority, there is only one God. No king or president or boss or loan officer or mother-in-law has ultimate control. As holy or powerful or wealthy or accomplished as a person may be, there is only one true God. 

2) While no person can be a god, we can become godly. It was Moses who forged a relationship with Hashem and led the entire nation out of slavery in Egypt. Surely b’ezrat Hashem, with God’s help, we also can accomplish great and important things. We aren’t expected to be perfect, only to be the best human beings we can be.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Suson

Wed, May 22 2019 17 Iyyar 5779