Moses at the Burning Bush - Marc Chagall

Moses at the Burning Bush – Marc Chagall

Why did God choose Moses to be the most important of prophets and the savior of the Israelites? The Biblical text this week in Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) begins to tell the story of this extraordinary leader.

Born of a Hebrew slave-woman, Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince but was at home nowhere. His place was with God.

The Torah tells us that Moses was the most intimate of God’s prophets who communed with the Almighty panim el panim – “face to face” or ‘soul to soul’ (Exodus 33:11). No other prophet is described in such intimate and personal terms in all of Biblical literature. We learn as well that Moses was the most humble human being ever to live (Numbers 12:3).

Moses is our people’s gold standard of a religious, moral, and political leader. In our era the world has benefited from other great figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless, Moses stands alone.

The prophetic message is old but ever new, and as we ourselves witness cruelty on the southern border of the United States, in Syria, the Congo, and in countless other places, Moses remains our moral standard-bearer.

What follows is my effort, drawing upon Biblical, midrashic and mystic imagery, to evoke Moses’ character and experience as he begins his prophetic mission.

To read my poem – go to my blog at the Times of Israel – .