In DeNile: Shemot 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What stories do you know from the first few years of your life? Do these stories provide insights into themes that have recurred throughout your lifetime?

As we begin the book of Exodus, we read the first story of Moses, offering us hints of his future:

The Pitch: “When she could hide [Moses] no longer, she got a wicker basket for him and caulked it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child into it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.” – Exodus 2:3

Swing #1: “The word tevah (here translated as “basket,” but in the Noah story as “ark”) occurs only here and in the section of the Flood. By this verbal parallelism Scripture apparently intends to draw attention to the thematic analogy. In both instances one worthy of being saved and destined to bring salvation to others is to be rescued from death by drowning. In the earlier section the salvation of humanity is involved, here it is the salvation of the chosen people.” – Umberto Cassuto

Swing #2: “I don’t know where the Disneyfied idea about Moses, Prince of Egypt, comes from, but it certainly isn’t the Bible. Exodus has only the sketchiest details about Young Moses. The baby is floated down the Nile in a wicker basket and is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. The princess then pays Moses’s own mother to raise him. That’s it.” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #3: “An exceptional birth story … is one ingredient for conjuring a larger-than-life, mythical figure. Barring it from Scripture helped to portray a mortal figure that lacked any divine dimension. Depicting the infant Moses as being sent off into the Nile, where he was vulnerable to the whims of the current and the crocodiles, dependent entirely on God – the story’s true hero – to rescue him from his predicament, helped, too. The birth of Moses in the Pentateuch is thus like that of any other person; in this way, he deserves recognition as a great man, but nothing more.” – Avigdor Shinan & Yair Zakovitch, From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

Late-Inning Questions: What does the story of Moses as a baby indicate about his destiny? Does it foretell greatness, or simply a person being at the right place at the right time? Must we mine our earliest memories to understand ourselves better, or is it more important for us to focus more on looking ahead?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: The safety of all people is a priority in Judaism. I hope you will join me next Friday night, January 27th, as our Friday night services will take place at KKBE. There, we will participate in “Stand-Up Shabbat”, in which we partner with GunSense SC to advocate for reasonable and appropriate laws to make our community safer. Services will begin at 8PM.

The Big Inning at the End: I’m thrilled that Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this week. It’s also intriguing that suspected PED-users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are receiving more votes than in previous years, making their eventual election into the Hall a real possibility. Does this bother you?

Shabbat Shalom!