Friday, December 20, 2013

Lingering at the Inn: Parshat Shemot

The title no doubt sounds like I'm about to tell you something relating to a certain little holiday coming up next week, but it's not that (though it is interesting that there are some clear parallels between the stories).

This is a story about Moses, and a peculiar incident that befalls him on his return to Egypt from Midian.  He is instructed to go back, he sets out, and then the next thing we know, God seems to be trying to kill him until Zipporah his wife saves the day by circumcising Eliezer, their son.

In order to explain this we focus in on the reference in the Torah that this incident in which God seems to want to kill Moses happens while Moses is staying at an inn.

This, at least for some of the commentators, is the answer to what went wrong here.  Moses has lost track of his mission.  Not only has he, for some unknown reason, put off circumcising his son, he has also slowed down to a halt in his journey back to Egypt.

Now of course Moses had to sleep, had to eat, couldn't fly to Egypt.  But the implication is that he got more than a little bit distracted and this is what brings on the punishment.

More than that, it would suggest he got caught up in things that weren't really important at all - saving the Jews and rearing his children according to the tradition.

That may not be the only explanation, but it is a good reminder to us about something.  Too often we get caught up "lingering at the inns" of life's unimportant and insignificant things and forget to keep on with the progress towards what's important.  For whatever the reason, fear, doubt, simple human nature - we need to shake ourselves to action to be like Zipporah in this instance, and, as the text suggests, wedding ourselves to life and action.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benson

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