We call him Moshe Rabbenu, Moses our rabbi. He’s been a part of our Torah reading for a couple of weeks now. You know, the little three-month-old baby set adrift in a mini-ark (teivah in Hebrew, the same word as the name of the boat Noah set sail on); saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, raised in the palace, sent on a mission by God to liberate the Israelite slaves). He’s the guy who shepherded the people across the Sea and to Mount Sinai where he collaborated with God to give us the Torah.
He’s a complex character who argues with God and the People, who stands in so many ways as the most interesting biblical personage, certainly the most consequential of our prophets. So picking ten things I learned from him was a bit of a challenge, but life is about challenge, so here we go (in no particular order):
1. It’s okay to argue with God. Moses does this a couple of times and even gets God to change God’s mind. For me this means that there’s a certain openness in the Tradition open to our own interaction.
2. If at three months old you find yourself floating down a river in a covered basket, don’t worry, help is on the way.
3. If the People get kvetchy, take a deep breath, exhale, and get on with things. As in when in the book of Numbers they all begin clamoring for water. Don’t hit the rock, just ask nicely and things will go well for you. (No pun intended.)
4. When you come down off of Mount Sinai and you see the People bowing to a golden cow, it’s okay to smash the tablets. God will give you another set.
5. It’s critically important to care for the widow, the stranger, and the orphan. Cuz it says so 36 time in the Torah.
6. As difficult as it sometimes might be, honor your father and mother.
7. As when Moses approaches God in the Burning Bush and God tells him to take off his shoes because he’s standing on holy ground, know when you’re standing on holy ground and act accordingly, though it might not be necessary to take off your shoes.
8. You cannot see God’s face and live (Exodus 33:20). You can see God’s back, which will just have to be good enough.
9. Just as God and Moses were lifelong partners, you, too, can partner with God, which will enrich your life and will make the world a much better place.
10. You may not get to enter the Promised Land, but you may well be able to see it, and sometimes that may have to be good enough.
Rabbi Phil Cohen