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Parashat Va’era

Knowing when not to say no

For 400 years our people toiled and worked in Egypt, just as G-d had promised they would, not a day longer or less, exactly what was promised and foreseen. When the time was up, G-d, who had been working behind the scenes for all this time, began to bring about Israel’s deliverance: Moshe was born, a man destined by G-d to walk with Him in ways unknown to that day until the time when Yeshua Mashichenu was born.

Our people were finding it hard to believe; where was G-d in times of trouble? We had heard no voice or seen no manifestation for 400 years! Was it all a dream, a figment of our collective consciousnesses? Did we believe in legends and myths, stories recounted around the campfire, embellished over time to mythical proportions? It must have seemed so, indeed many today in the ‘civilised’ rationalist, humanist and enlightened society we live in would say that Heaven’s silence is tantamount to non-existence.

Yet, G-d was about to move in power for His people, and He is about to do the same again now in our day. So much about this redemption from Egypt was all about timing: the slavery was about to be ended, the servitude had become too much and G-d’s heart was stirred once again to compassion, even down to the fact that the sins of the Canaanites had come to their full and were ripe for judgement too. It all fitted together. But G-d needed an agent on earth to set His people free, through whom He could speak and direct. Who was this person?

G-d’s choice was Moshe; from birth onwards his mother was aware that Moshe would have a destiny and be used ‘a goodly child’, the Hebrew text says, hinting at a direct work of G-d. Yet he had to walk a very uneven path before he was in any way ready to be used of G-d. How often do we simply think we can get up and say, I’m ready now Lord! Use me! Of course by such words we actually just disqualify ourselves. Moshe had an acute sense of justice, even if this led him to act at times rashly and impulsively, which caused the sin that actually led him to not enter the Land.

Having served and learned some measure of humility for 40 years in the wilderness with Yitro, Moshe has an encounter with G-d in the burning bush.

Moshe has learned lots, but fails to recognise what G-d is calling him to. 5 times Moshe refuses the call of G-d, we have to ask ourselves why. Moshe flounders and panics about what he’s expected to do, despite knowing G-d would be with him! He’s still bound up in fear. Yet we could also possibly argue that there are 2 responses here: false humility or low self image. Both are wrong, both lead us to reject what G-d is calling us to, but if it’s based on fear too then we certainly don’t move on in G-d.

‘I am only a man’ seems to be Moshe’ cry, and he’s right! We can see the truth yet fail to see the whole truth! Yes, you are ‘only’ you, with all your failings and weaknesses, yet it doesn’t stop G-d using you! Was Rav Shaul perfect? Were Kefa or any of the other initial followers of Mashiach? No. But they were used by G-d to do great things, but they all had to say yes. This is G-d’s work not yours! Finally after the 5th rejection by Moshe G-d is angry and takes the priesthood away from him and gives it to Aaron his brother (according to some commentators on Shemot 4:14).

Moshe needed to have a better and truer knowledge of himself first before being used. Sure he felt inadequate, but who doesn’t! But Moshe like us needed to see that our inadequacies were not an impediment to G-d’s work. Once he’d seen his own sin and had a realistic and genuine view of himself, not too high and proud, not too low denying G-d’s image in Him, he was ready. Ready because he knew that G-d is made strong in our weaknesses. Who gets the glory if we are strong? We do. G-d will not tolerate that or share His glory with man. To have genuine humility means having a realistic view of our own sin and weakness, being strong in G-d’s ability to overcome this and work through us anyway by HIS calling and enabling.

We stand at the threshold of another direct intervention of G-d to bring salvation and redemption to our people, the Jewish nation. That should make you feel inadequate. All G-d looks for is our ‘yes’. Moshe knew the culture and society of Egypt, that’s why he was ideally suited and called. We know this culture and society, its problems and issues, how it affects our people. That’s why He’s sending us.

Rabbi Binyamin

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