- Rabbi Isaac Roussel
Hashem With Us
Our parsha today contains Moshe’s encounter with Hashem at the burning bush. God informs him that he is to be the agent of redemption for the people of Israel. Moshe is reluctant. He gives 5 excuses for why he shouldn’t be chosen.
First, Moshe acts humble and says “Who am I to be the one?” And God responds, “Don’t worry. I’ll be with you.”
Second, Moshe says “Who am I to say sent me?” And God responds, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Third, Moshe says “Even if I tell them that, they won’t believe me” To which God responds by giving him two signs; the staff turns into a snake and his hand becomes leperous.
Fourth, Moshe, not to be convinced, retorts “But I am slow of speech!” He really doesn’t want to go. God shoots back that He will give him the words to use.
And finally, Moshe just simply begs Hashem to send someone else. The text says that God got angry.I kind of envision God throwing up His hands at this point in exasperation. But He comes back with a solution. “I will give you Aaron to speak for you.”
There are many people in Scripture who have voiced reluctance when they were called upon by God to do something. Isaiah denounces himself as a man of unclean lips. Jeremiah claimed to be too young. Elijah falls into a deep depression and whines to God about his plight. Jonah simply ran away from God. In the Besorah, Rav Shaul considers himself unworthy of his task, mainly because of his history of persecuting Yeshua-followers.
Many of us can find ourselves responding similarly. We sense that God is calling us to do something but we don’t feel ready or capable of doing it. We shrink away because it is scary or challenging. I know that I felt that way when I took over as Senior Rabbi and still do to some extent. It is a big responsibility and I often feel inadequate to task. Julie had a similar reaction when it occurred to her that she was going to be the senior rabbi’s wife. She kept saying “I am not ready to be a Rebbetzin”. She still says this from time to time.
Many people feel this way when they are asked to do something outside of their comfort zone like give a public speech or teach a class. It may not be a call to do something, but God might ask us to leave something behind. Our dear friend, Prentice, was happily cloistered in a monastery in France but he could not shake the call to become a parish priest. He had to respond to that call even though it meant leaving behind something that he dearly loved.
It doesn’t have to be something quite so momentous either. It might be that we feel the prompting of the Ruach to talk with a friend, confront an unjust situation, or reach out to someone in a special way. I have had this experience several times in my life. Years ago I felt compelled to pray for the unborn child of a friend of mine. I just simply could not shake it, try as I may. Finally I had to decide to obey. I risked seeming silly or pretentious and that was the source of my reluctance. I approached my friend, told her what was going on and that I didn’t know what it was about. I told her that I wasn’t trying to be some “fancy faith healer”, but just couldn’t shake the compulsion. I prayed for her unborn son. It was very emotional. To this day I have no idea why and will probably never know.
When God calls us to something He will give us the tools to accomplish it. Like Moshe, He will bring people alongside us to help us in our task. Like Moshe, He will give us the words to say. Like Moshe, he will give us the means to demonstrate to others our sincerity and truth in our mission. And most importantly, like Moshe, He will simply be with us in the task.
I think that this is where much of our fear comes from. We believe that God isn’t going to be with us. That He is sending us “out there”, away from Him to do a task, like He is a general or something. But that’s the difference between Hashem and generals, politicians, and bosses. He can and is with us every second of the day, in everything that we do. He doesn’t send us forth, He goes with us. We have our task to do, of course, but He is there companioning us the whole way.
There is a midrash that I am sure you have heard many times. God gives Moshe a new name, YHVH. This can be translated as “I will be whom I will be”. But the midrash says that God is telling Moshe and the people of Israel “I have been with you in this exile, I am with you in your Exodus, and I will be with you in all of your future challenges.” Hashem was with Moshe in his leadership. Hashem was with the prophets as they brought their message to Israel. Hashem was with His people through the destruction of the Temple, the persecutions, the pogroms, the forced conversions and He was with them through the Shoah. And he will be with us in our assigned tasks, big or small.
Hashem was most perfectly with Messiah Yeshua as he accomplished his mission in the world. Yeshua is the Perfect Prophet who brings the Father to people by his very presence. He fulfills the prophecy that he would be Immanuel, God with Us. But if we embrace God’s empowerment, if we allow Him to give us the words, if we allow Him to bring us helpers, and if we allow Him to accompany us, we too will bring God into all of our tasks and relationships.
A midrash says that God came in a quietly burning bush to see if Moshe was the type of man who would pay attention to such things. May we also be attentive to Hashem’s quiet calling to us.
May we hear the call coming forth from the burning bush.
May we embrace the assigned task, however great or small.
May we seek to accomplish it despite our reluctance and fears.
May we do it knowing that He is with us every step of the way.
And we will indeed be the bearers of Immanuel, God’s presence in our midst.