Choosing MosesDecember 18, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”—Exodus 3:1
The Torah portion for this week is Shemot, which means “names,” from Exodus 1:1–6:1, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 27:6–28:13; 29:22–23.
Why did God choose Moses?
We take it for granted that Moses was chosen to be Israel’s redeemer. But have you ever wondered why?
All we know about Moses’ early life—before he was chosen by God—is that he was raised in Pharaoh’s palace and that he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. While we can certainly admire Moses’ ability to stand up for what he believed in and to reject a life of royalty for justice and truth, these qualities still don’t explain what God saw in Moses that caused Him to choose this particular man. We can imagine that among the Hebrews there were most likely other men and women with similar character traits, including Moses’ brother, Aaron, and his sister, Miriam. What set Moses apart?
The Sages share a story from the Jewish tradition: After killing the Egyptian and running away from Egypt, Moses had settled in the desert of Midian, where he became a shepherd. One day, as Moses took his flock to graze, one little lamb ran away. Moses chased after him to a brook, far from where he had been. This, explain the Sages, was how Moses “came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” When Moses saw the lamb drink thirstily from the brook, he said, “Little lamb, had I known that you were so thirsty, I would have carried you to the water on my own back!” After hearing that, God said, “Moses is worthy of being the leader of my people.”
So what was Moses’ outstanding quality that made him God’s choice? It was Moses’ willingness to go out of his way to help another creature. It was his willingness to bear a burden for the sake of another. Kindness, not intelligence or ingenuity, is most important to God. And it should be our focus and goal, too.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a noted contemporary rabbi, once said: “When I was younger, I used to admire people who are clever. Now that I’m older, I admire those who are kind.” To be a kind person is something we should all pursue; selflessness is a trait worth practicing.
Try this: Give something up for the sake of another person. It can be something small, like one cup of coffee a day. Saving the three or four dollars each day and giving this money to charity can make a big difference in someone’s life. Another idea may be to sleep a half hour less and use the extra time to visit someone lonely or to volunteer for a good cause.
The little things we do for others may seem small to us — but they are huge in God’s eyes.