Moshe displays true humility


You asked me why Moshe was not present in the parashah this week.

He is present, I said, but he is hidden. or quiet. He is, of course, the “you” in the first line (Exodus 27:20), then he recedes to where he lives, in the heart of the story. He is, of course, our hero, I said.

But he is known most for his humility, you said. Not for his accomplishments, his organizational skills, not for his taste in decorating, not for his choice of delegates, we remember him for his humility.

Moshe is an empty vessel, I said, plenty of room for God. Also, he leaves room for his students, that’s true humility, he leaves room for his students to enter that space were all creativity happens. We will remember him as Moshe our teacher. He has to recede for creativity to rise.

Do you remember those shorts he used to wear, you said, and those over-sized sunglasses? He looked so funny standing on the mountain in the shorts and sunglasses.

He didn’t have much of a design sense, but we won’t remember him as Moses our decorator. Still, we all knew he was our center, I said. Quiet, unexpressed, sometimes hidden. The center is always hidden, I said, the sustaining power always somewhat unexpressed.

So he does not come into the Land, you said, and he does not preside over the sanctuary. The two activities of expressed leadership. He presides elsewhere, he is our spiritual center and none of it could have been done without him. Don’t you know this about life? you asked. You do know this, you said. You do know the difference between what is root and what is derivative, what is source and what is appearance, what is heart and what is fluff. You do know this.

I had lunch with Aaron this week, you said, at the Club where he’s a member. I admired his billowing robes, the way the sleeves unfurled when he reached for the mineral water, the crimson, the purple, the jewels on his chest, that voice. But I long most for a cup of coffee with Moshe our rabbi, at the diner where he sits in the window. You know what I mean? you asked.

I know what you mean, I said, I know exactly what you mean.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman of Neve Shalom prepared this week’s Torah portion.