Exodus is all about telling – mostly God telling Moses what to say, and Moses parroting it. God directs Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” and then hardens Pharaoh’s heart, so that the Israelites are not released – until after the 10th plague. God continues to tell Moses how to deal with the Israelites as they became more and more testy over the years of their wandering. Moses always does as bidden by God.
I have often wondered whether Moses was merely a puppet of God, or whether he had his own strength of character. My initial reading of the book of Exodus made me uncertain about how I felt about both God and Moses. I didn’t like a lot of what God did. I never have understood – to this day – why God kept hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Israelites go. What kind of test was this? Was it to show the Egyptians the true power of God? Was it vindictive? Malicious, even?
Why did Moses follow so blindly? Was his faith so strong, as was Abraham’s, that he did not dare to doubt? This troubled me deeply. For me, doubting is important. Questioning is important. Faith is one thing. Blind following another. Especially when it involves harming others.
I think Moses learned this along the way, and he began to argue with God. I was so pleased to read this, when Moses prevailed upon God not to annihilate all the Israelites after the spies returned. Maybe this is what God wanted Moses to learn. To speak up for what is right. To question authority. To remind God about the imperfections and weaknesses of humanity. And to bid God to act in a moral and humane manner.
This is the story I like to tell at my Seder.
I’m participating this year in #blogExodus, a daily series of posts, tweets, and status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. The series lasts for 14 days – not nearly as long as the Jews wandered in the desert all those years ago. You can find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.