Suggested Discussion Questions
1. What does it mean to "do good"?
2. How can we devote ourselves to justice?
*Vignette 1* Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went to his kinsfolk 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.
*Vignette 2* When he went out the next day, he found two Hebrews fighting; so he said to the offender, "Why do you strike your fellow?" He retorted, "Who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Moses was frightened, and thought: Then the matter is known! When Pharoah learned of the matter, he sought to kill Moses; but Moses fled from Pharoah. He arrived in the land of Midian, and sat down beside a well.
*Vignette 3* And the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. [JPS]
These three major episodes in Moses's adult life occur before God speaks to Moses at the burning bush.
1. What do we learn about Moses’s character from his reactions to these three situations?
2. What strengths does Moses display that make him the right choice to lead the Jewish people out of their slavery in Egypt?
3. What weaknesses does Moses display in these scenes?
4. Which of these strengths or weaknesses do you and your community display? How do they affect your ability and your community's ability to create social change?
An angel of Adonai appeared to [Moses] in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight, why doesn’t the bush burn up?” When Adonai saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.”
נתכוונו לומר שמתחלה נראה אליו מיכאל ושם כבוד השכינה, והוא לא ראה הכבוד כי לא הכין דעתו לנבואה, וכאשר כיון לבו וסר לראות נתגלה אליו מראה השכינה ויקרא אליו אלהים מתוך הסנה.
Our sages intended to say that from the beginning, [both the angel] Michael and the Divine presence (K’vod haShechinah) appeared to him, but Moses didn’t see the Divine presence because he hadn’t prepared his heart for prophecy. When he inclined his heart and turned to see, the appearance of the Divine was revealed to him and God called to him from the midst of the bush.
1. In Ramban’s reading of Exodus 3:2, God's presence was there from the beginning, but Moses couldn’t see it because he hadn’t “prepared his heart for prophecy.” What do you imagine Moses did to prepare his heart to see the burning bush?
2. In your own life, what processes do you go through in order to sensitize yourself to perceive realities of the world around you? What processes might a community need to go through to become sensitized to the realities of the world around them?
3. What is the significance of ‘turning aside’ for Moses? For God? For us?
(יב) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־יְהוָ֗ה רְ֠אֵה אַתָּ֞ה אֹמֵ֤ר אֵלַי֙ הַ֚עַל אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְאַתָּה֙ לֹ֣א הֽוֹדַעְתַּ֔נִי אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־תִּשְׁלַ֖ח עִמִּ֑י וְאַתָּ֤ה אָמַ֙רְתָּ֙ יְדַעְתִּ֣יךָֽ בְשֵׁ֔ם וְגַם־מָצָ֥אתָ חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינָֽי׃ (יג) וְעַתָּ֡ה אִם־נָא֩ מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֜ן בְּעֵינֶ֗יךָ הוֹדִעֵ֤נִי נָא֙ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֔ךָ וְאֵדָ֣עֲךָ֔ לְמַ֥עַן אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ וּרְאֵ֕ה כִּ֥י עַמְּךָ֖ הַגּ֥וֹי הַזֶּֽה׃ (יד) וַיֹּאמַ֑ר פָּנַ֥י יֵלֵ֖כוּ וַהֲנִחֹ֥תִי לָֽךְ׃
And Moses said to the Lord, See, you say to me, Bring up this people; and you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, I know you by name, and I have also found grace in your sight. 13. Now therefore, I beg you, if I have found grace in your sight, show me now your way, that I may know you, that I may find grace in your sight; and consider that this nation is your people. 14. And he said, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
(יח) וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ׃ (יט) וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אֲנִ֨י אַעֲבִ֤יר כָּל־טוּבִי֙ עַל־פָּנֶ֔יךָ וְקָרָ֧אתִֽי בְשֵׁ֛ם יְהוָ֖ה לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וְחַנֹּתִי֙ אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָחֹ֔ן וְרִחַמְתִּ֖י אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲרַחֵֽם׃ (כ) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לֹ֥א תוּכַ֖ל לִרְאֹ֣ת אֶת־פָּנָ֑י כִּ֛י לֹֽא־יִרְאַ֥נִי הָאָדָ֖ם וָחָֽי.
1. After years of being in relationship with God, how does Moses attempt to know God more deeply?
2. In what ways does God comply with Moses’s request, and in what ways does God hold back?
And the Lord said to Moses, When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the marvels that I have put within your power. I, however, will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek, Dvar Torah on /Parshat Vaera/, American Jewish World Service, 2006:
God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart ten times in order to bring the Israelites out of Egypt; God hardened Pharaoh’s heart again and again so that Moses, and everyone who learned from his life, would know that working to change the world can be frustrating and demands awesome persistence and discipline.
1. According to Rabbi Spodek, God hardened Pharoah’s heart in order to teach Moses how much persistence and discipline is needed to change the world. How do you react to this reading?
2. How can we inspire our communities to stay devoted to the hard work that will make a real difference in the world and in our community.?
1. What are some of the many aspects of life that this verse may be referring to? What do you infer from it?
2. In what ways do children learn from their parents' behaviors?
3. What path can we set for the future?