Friday, 25 April 2008

Let's hear it for Moses

Poor ol’ Moses doesn’t even get a look in a the beginning of Pesach.

I thought it might be interesting to cull some of the glorious Midrashim on him for study at the end of the Festival.

These are my own translation of material, largely, gleamed from a fabulous essay at the back of Menachem Kasher’s ‘Israel Passover Haggadah.’

1. Vayikra Rabba 1:3

Go and learn that of all the names that Moshes had, the Holy Blessed One only ever called him by the name that Batya the daughter of Pharaoh called him by. As it says and she called him Moses since she saved him out from death.

And not only that, the Holy Blessed One said to Batya daughter of Pharaoh , ‘Moses was not your son, but you called him your son, so too even though you are not my daughter I will call you my daughter as it says, these are the children of Batya (I Chron 4) Bat Yah.

2. Shmot Rabba 4

And when the Holy Blessed One said to Moses, And now go and I will send you to Pharaoh , he said to Him, ‘Master of the World, I can’t since Jethro has received me with honour and opened his house to me and I am as a son for him, and one for whom a door is opened is obliged to his neighbour. I can’t go without his permission. Therefore it states And Moses when and returned to Jethro his father-in-law. He went to get permission to go to Egypt.

3. Guide to the Perplexed 2:45

Moses didn’t only intervene in the disputes of his brethren, he would intervene for those who were part of the covenant and those who were not part of the covenant, whenever their hand was upon the lowest ones in society as it says And the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came to draw water but the sheperds drove them off. So Moses helped them and watered their flock. Even though he was at that time a ger – stranger and he had no-one to defend him he wanted to give his soul to rescue the oppressed from the hands of their oppressors and therefore he went to bring out the pursued from the hand of the pursuer and the Hebrews from the hand of the Egyptians. And since his heart was pure and strong and he was pure and strong and his eyes were pure to the point of not seeing wickedness or evil, the Holy Blessed One chose him as the shepherd of Israel.

4. Shmot Rabba 3, Midrash Aseret HaDibrot, Tanhuma Vayikra 3

Then Moses hid his face for he was afraid [yirah] to look at God. Moses said, ‘I stand before the God of my ancestors, shall I not hide my face?’ At that moment the Holy Blessed One said to him, ‘When I revealed Myself to you, you honoured me by covering your face. By Your Life! You shall survive 40 days and night with nothing to eat or drink, sustaining your self by the glory of the divine presence as it says Moses did not know there were beams of light from his face while speaking to God.

The Holy Blessed One looked in each and every generation and could find anyone more appropriate to receive Torah than Moses. And how did Moses merit being hatan Torah? Because of the humidly and awe within him. As it says Then Moses hid his face for he was awed [yirah] looking at God.

Since Moses fled from honour, honour pursued him to fulfil the verse A person’s pride will bring them low, but the humble will attain honour. (Prov 29)

5. Sifrei Behalotecha 91

And God spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge regarding the Children of Israel (Ex 6)

The Holy Blessed One said to them, ‘Know that my children, they are rebellious, they are wearisome- tarchanim, they are overly excitable. There is a condition for your leadership of them that they will curse you and hurl stones at you. And this lesson goes for every leader and judge, they need to suffer the torech of the community and bear it like Moses our Rabbi, for it is said of him as a wet nurse carries a suckling child

6. Midrash Tanhumah, V’era 5

And Moses and Aaron came [before Pharaoh] (Exodus 5:1)

Rabbi Hiyya son of Abba said, ‘This was coronation day, when all the Kings came to crown Pharaoh because he was the Emperor. While they were placing crowns on Pharaoh’s head, Moses and Aaron stood at the entrance to the hallway. Pharaoh’s guards told him, ‘Two elders are standing at the doorway’

Pharaoh asked ‘Have they got a crown?’ The guard replied ‘no.’ ‘Then let them enter last.’ When Moses and Aaron finally stood before Pharaoh he said, ‘What do you want?’ Moses replied ‘The God of the Hebrews has sent be to you to say, “Let my people go so they will serve me.”’ (Ex 7:16).

Pharaoh replied angrily, ‘Who is this GOD that I should listen to His voice. Doesn’t He know enough to send me a crown, rather you come with words.’

Rabbi Levi said, ‘Pharaoh then took the list of gods and began to read, ‘The god of Edom, the god of Moab, the god of Sidon, yada yada yada,’ and he said to them, ‘There, I have finished all my records and your god’s not on the list.’

So Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh, ‘Fool, the gods you mentioned are all dead. But the LORD is a living God, Ruler of the Universe.’

Pharaoh asked, ‘Is he young or old? How many cities has he captured? How many states has he humbled? How long has he been in power?

They replied, the strength and power of our God fills the world. God was before the world was created and God will be at the end of the worlds. He fashioned you and placed within you the breath of life.’

What else has he done? Pharaoh asked.

They replied, ‘God stretched out the heavens and the earth and God’s voice carved out flames of fire,[1] God rips open the mountains and smashed the rocks.[2] God’s bow is of fire, God’s arrows are flames, God’s spear is a torch, God’s shield is the clouds, God’s sword is lightening, God forms the mountains and the hills; covers the mounts with grass, the heavens with clouds, God brings down the rain and the dew and gets the plants to grow and the fruits to ripen. God afflicts the beasts and forms the embryo in the womb of the mother and brings it forth into the light of the world.’

Pharoh said, ‘You are speaking lies, because I am the Lord of the world, and I created myself and the Nile, as it says, mine is the Nile and I made it (Ezekiel 29:3)[3]

7. Brachot 32a

And GOD said to me [Moses], ‘Go, Descend’ (Deut 9) What is meant by ‘Go, Descend.’ Rabbi Elazar said the Holy Blessed One said to him, ‘Moses, descend from your greatness. For everything I gave you was for the sake of Israel. And now Israel has sinned, what are you to me?’ Immediately Moses became powerless and he had no strength to speak.

But when God said, ‘Let Me alone and I will destroy them’ (Deut 9) Moses said “This thing depends on me,” and immediately he stood up and was seized with prayer and pleaded for mercy.

Mashal - To a king who was angry with his son and beat him severely. And [the King’s] beloved was sitting before him, scared to say a word. The king said, ‘Were it not for my beloved sitting before me I would kill you.’ [The beloved] said, “This thing depends on me.” Immediately he stood up and rescued him.

Rabbi Abbahu said: ‘Were this not a written verse, it would be impossible to say this. This is to teach that Moses seized the Holy Blessed One, like one who seizes their friend by their garment and said before God: Sovereign of the Universe, I will not let You go until You forgive and pardon them.

[1] (Psalms 29:7)

[2] (I Kings 19:11)

[3] Full verse – Thus said God, I am going to deal with you, Pharaoh who said “Mine is the Nile and I made it.’

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