Moses Most Wanted: Shemot 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever tried to hide that you’ve done the right thing? Is it because you’re concerned how it may be perceived by others? Is it because you simply don’t want attention?

Years before God encounters him at the Burning Bush, Moses fights for a defenseless Israelite slave – but not without trying to hide it first:

The Pitch: “Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinfolk and witnessed their labors. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsmen. He turned this way and that and, seeing no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” – Exodus 2:11-12

Swing #1: “The inner conflict between his status as a free man and his people’s state of slavery leads Moses to slay the Egyptian that he sees striking his fellow Hebrew. After this initial crude act of justice, Moses flees and later returns to finish the task of liberation. In his own story, Moses experiences and bridges the categories of slave and free man, making him an apt mediator for the transformation of his people.” – Ronald Hendel, Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “Moses’ passivity [as leader of the Israelites] stands in mute contrast to his activity before God revealed Himself. Moses had interceded to prevent the beating of a Hebrew (thereby killing an Egyptian) with more than ordinary deliberation. It was not a purely impulsive man of whom it was reported ‘he looked this way and that way’ [before killing the Egyptian].” – Aaron Wildavsky, Moses as Political Leader

Swing #3: “Extraordinary birth stories [of future heroes] indicate, ultimately, the selection of an individual as part of a preordained divine plan: already in his mother’s womb the child’s lofty destiny was set. Instead, in everything concerning Moses, the Pentateuch prefers to tell a slightly different story in which a human being slowly proves himself worthy of his mission through his actions and confrontations in which he fights for justice.” – Avigdor Shinan & Yair Zakovitch, From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand Moses’ state of mind as he defends his fellow Israelite? What does it say about his character? Are good deeds worthwhile if we have to go to great pains to explain them?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We encourage all of our congregants to vote for the Mercaz (Conservative/Masorti) slate in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections so that pluralistic voices can be heard loud and clear in Israel. Please visit to learn more.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of hiding righteous acts, there are many great ballplayers who have done countless kind acts without seeking fanfare. Reggie Jackson was not thought to be one of them. His teammate Catfish Hunter once claimed that Jackson would “give you the shirt off his back. Of course he’d call a press conference to announce it.”

Shabbat Shalom!