The Law School Christian Legal Society and Jewish Law Students Association co-sponsored a lunchtime program today to help Christians better understand the Jewish feast of Passover. The speaker was my friend and colleague at the law school, Professor Mitchell Gordon. His talk covered the the historical basis of the celebration as well as how the holiday is celebrated today. He also spent a good deal of time talking about the Exodus story, beginning with the Egyptians’ enslavement of the Israelites and going through to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
I’ve been to Passover Seders before and I have a good familiarity with the Exodus story, but that doesn’t prevent learning something new or hearing something in a new and different way.
One of the things Mitchell discussed that I had not focused on before was the sequence in Exodus 2:11-15. After Moses grows us, he watches his people in their hard labor and one day sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. (In response, he kills the Egyptian). The next day, he sees two Hebrews fighting, and questions their behavior. Hoses then flees Egypt and goes to live in Midian, where he observes shepherds abusing the daughters of a priest of Midian.
Mitchell’s comment was that a true prophet is upset at all injustice, hence Moses’ reaction to the action of the Egyptian against the Hebrews, the infighting of the Hebrews and the abusive behavior of the Midians demonstrates he is a true prophet and worthy of the task God appoints to him.
What came to my mind as Mitchell spoke was the story of Prince Siddhartha, who leaves his palace on successive days and discovered old age, sickness and death, which discoveries set him on his path to Enlightenment. That is, I heard a story of an awakening. For me the verses indicate less that Moses actions show him as a true prophet, than that this series of events awakened him, preparing him for God’s call.
Mitchell also had a wonderful discussion of the dialogue between Moses and God at the burning bush, suggesting that even awakened, Moses took a little persuading to undertake the task to which God appointed him. Not unlike us some of the time.