I’m always struck by the first line of the Book of Exodus; A new king arose in Egypt who did not know Joseph. Torah gives us this verse as an explanation for the change of mood and attitude towards the Hebrew population living in the suburb of Goshen. For me it’s redolent of the power of memory to hold in mind gratitude or resentment. This is so relevant for our contemporary existence too. This new king, for some reason, decides that this guest nation is a threat and wants to suppress them. And Moses, this child saved from the water by the king’s daughter, who defies her father and raises this ‘hidden child’ in the palace as an Egyptian.
Then comes a very significant moment. We’re told Moses grew up, vayigdal, as if there are stages of maturing. There comes a certain moment where things open up for him and he notices what has been there all along. He is connected viscerally with the people now hated and abused in Egypt. This is our story, not just the coming out of Egypt but the idea of growing up to notice and have a mature view of the world. To see suffering and to see the complexity of who we are.
Despite his maturity Moses is reluctant, he describes himself as slow to speak kaved peh which is literally heavy mouthed. the same adjective to describe Pharaoh’s heart when he repeatedly says no.
These next few weeks of reading Exodus (Shemot) go to the heart of our Jewish story, our Jewish identities and our Jewish conversations. What’s more we have a great deal of time (at home) to do so. v’at p’tach lo Open for them, we say about the child at the seder asking about identity.
Maybe this is a moment for all of us. As we work communally to be responsible and safe. As we have the time to consider our Jewish lives. As we wait for the Board of Deputies much awaited Commission by Stephen Bush on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish community.
Shabbat Shalom to all,
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