The Accidental Tourist: Shemot 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you ever get lost on purpose? Do you like to wander without a particular destination, for the sake of discovering new places and things?

It’s hard to know why Moses drives his flock toward the Burning Bush, but like many journeys, it is the turning point to everything that follows:

The Pitch: “Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” – Exodus 3:1

Swing #1: “The text appears to suggest that Moses was merely searching out a fresh supply of fodder for his flock. Flavius Josephus, however insisted that the locals feared and shunned the place despite its superior pasturage ‘because of the opinion men had that God dwelt there, the shepherds not daring to ascend up to it.’” – Jonathan Kirsch, Moses, A Life

Swing #2: “The reason it is ‘Horeb’ (i.e. dry) is because of the great heat, for rain did not fall there, because it was close to Egypt, [only] a three day’s walk, as Moses spoke.” – Ibn Ezra

Swing #3: “חכמה (wisdom) is also known as חרבה (or, Horeb) … [the Psalms] define the basic ingredient of wisdom as reverence for God. This is the deeper meaning of Moses having been afraid to ‘look’ at God.” – Kedushat Levi

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators see Moses’s arrival at Horeb as intentional or accidental? Do you get the sense that Moses believes something interesting would happen at Horeb, even if he can’t predict what exactly it would be? Must we seek the unknown in order to grow?

On-Deck at TBT: I’m resuming my Wednesday evening classes with a mini-course called “Megillah Midrash Madness!” starting January 13th from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Join us as we explore some of the craziest stories based on the already-astonishing Book of Esther. You can pre-register here.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of getting lost on purpose, I always love the story of how Jimmy Piersall, upon hitting his 100th career home run, ran around the bases backwards. But Piersall brought us more than just comedy; he was one of the first people in the public eye to speak of mental health awareness, especially by sharing his own personal struggles.

Shabbat Shalom!