Parashat Sh’mot

Friday, December 28, 2018 /20 Tevet, 5779
Parashat Sh’mot Exodus 1:1-6:1

Dear Friends,

Life requires us to make shifts, to change directions, to take the road less – or more – traveled, when we may not expect it. Such a moment arises in this week’s Torah portion.

Moses was out walking in the desert, having fled from Pharaoh towards Midian following the episode when he slew an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. While in the desert, Moses encountered a bush which was on fire, yet which was not consumed by the flames. It was surely a stirring and unusual sight, to which Moses said, “I will turn aside now, and I will see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” (Exodus 3:3)

Rashi, our medieval French commentator, expanded upon Moses’ thoughts, adding, “I will turn aside from here, to come near there.”

Moments like this profound spiritual encounter have the potential to redirect our pathways. The secret is not merely to witness the encounter, but to be willing to change our course. I recall a couple occasions earlier in my life when I had such compelling episodes. In high school, I worked at the public library where the chief librarian was a trusted friend. Knowing me, he recommended I consider Antioch College as I was pondering next steps. At the time, I knew nothing about Antioch, but upon visiting the campus in southern Ohio, I was smitten. Antioch changed my life, introducing me to new social dynamics, personal expectations, qualities of thought, and responsibilities in the world. A la Rashi, “I will turn aside from here to come near there.”

Similarly, midway through my tenure at Antioch, I took nine months away from school to work and travel, completing the journey at a shul in south Florida where my late grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. It was there, that sunny Shabbat morning in December almost 40 years ago today, that a cousin made the suggestion to consider the rabbinate. Wow! It was a burning bush moment, again, per Rashi, “I will turn aside from here to come near there.”

Presently, in Temple Beth El’s transitioning, we members of the Temple may have moments which shift our directions. We see what is around us differently – like a bush we had not previously noticed. And we find the will to change courses.

This a time to turn from here, to come near there…

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Doug Kohn