Parashat Va-eira

Friday, December 31, 2021/27 Tevet, 5782
Parashat Va-eira Exodus 6:2−9:35

Dear Friends,

This was not how Moses expected things to go. He had been comfortable in Midian as a shepherd, husband, and father. When God spoke to him from the burning bush, it wasn’t a given that Moses would heed God’s call and go back to Egypt. He wasn’t sure he was up to the task of leading the Israelites to freedom, and yet somehow, God had convinced him he could. God promised Moses that the people would listen to him (Exodus 3:18) and that his quest would be successful.

Moses believed God, but now he had pause. Everything was a lot harder than he had hoped.

Despite his fear of speaking in public, Moses had gathered the strength to stand before them, but the Hebrews would not listen to what he had to say (Exodus 6:9). How could he lead his people to freedom if they wouldn’t even take him seriously? “The Israelites would not listen to me,” Moses lamented to God. “How then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech.” (Exodus 6:12)

Moses hadn’t signed up for this. He thought, perhaps naively, that the people would look to and listen to him, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Moses felt frustrated, worn out, and uncertain.

There is a reason the Yiddish phrase “Man plans, God laughs” is so popular. Moses’s life was not going as planned; neither is ours. When we entered 2021, we hoped and dreamed of a better year. When we began receiving vaccinations, we prayed that a new normal would emerge by the end of the year. As 2021 comes to a close, we find ourselves in yet another surge, making careful decisions about how to keep one another safe. Medical professionals are once again overwhelmed with cases. Teachers are grappling with meeting students’ needs while so many are sick or in quarantine. Businesses wonder how to keep afloat with so many new challenges coming their way. This isn’t where we wanted to be. We may be frustrated, impatient, or languishing.

In our Torah portion, God speaks to Moses at his moment of frustration. God encourages him to keep trekking forward in partnership with his brother Aaron. It was okay if he wasn’t good at public speaking because his brother could help. God told Moses that this journey was not easy, and it was longer than desired, but if he worked with others and continued to do all he could to serve his people, they would one day be free.

The sages teach that Moses would one day become the greatest leader who ever lived. He wasn’t successful because leadership came easy to him or was lucky. He prevailed because he pushed on even when things were difficult. He strove to be patient, determined, and to lead with compassion. The rewards of his hard work would be enormous.

This evening, my friends, we will enter 2022 in a world far from the healthy environment we wish to see. We are not yet where we want to be in this pandemic, but with patience, thoughtful decisions, and working hand in hand with one another, we, too, will reach the promised land.

I hope you have a happy and healthy start to the year.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Cassi Kail