• Gabbai

Shemot – Defining Identity

Moses, born in perilous circumstances, defied the odds and grew up under Pharaoh’s nose, likely with a silver spoon in his mouth. Moses was not subject to the cruelties of the great big world outside the inner circle of Egyptian nobility. He likely had the finest education available in those times and grew up in a pure Egyptian culture.

Moses nevertheless knew of his Hebrew heritage. He may have maintained connection to his birth mother who kept him until he was weaned, or he may have been informed by the Pharaoh’s daughter who raised him. But until adulthood it seems that Moses did not engage with his Hebrew brethren. Once he grew up, however, Moses ventured out.

“And it was in those days and Moses grew up, and he went out to his brethren and looked upon their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way and saw that there was no man, and he smote the Egyptian, hiding him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:11-12)

In what appears to be his first foray out among his Hebrew brethren Moses encountered a situation in which he chose to intervene. Moses could have ignored this incident. He didn’t have to entangle himself in the politics and dysfunction of slave-master relationships. But his passion for justice would not allow him to ignore the altercation. Already from his first venture among his people he seemed destined for leadership. Moses could not stand by as an injustice was perpetrated. He could not allow one man to bully another, He would not see the vulnerable taken advantage of. At that moment the potential of Moses was actualized.

But there is more at play here. This is more than a question of standing up for the downtrodden, supporting the underdog. Moses was choosing sides, forming his identity. Until this point Moses strad