Beshalach – The longest walk, wettest tears
He could feel the elders’ eyes on his back. Moses was walking away from the camp. The sound of people yelling, quarreling to their rear. It was fading with each turn. The elders followed but kept a distance. He walked steadily, heavy footed. Tired, without word, and alone, he was among a hungry people, far from their home in Egypt. They were torn from their place with promise of a future unimaginable. They resisted Moses, but when the Egyptians said to go, they followed him faithfully. He was far away, uncaring, however, and he was not one of them. Orphaned in the desert, they lashed out in fear.
The path was quiet. He could hear the gravel underneath. The incline had risen him to a vista; single and astray, free to think. Against the ground, he sat just to recall something, anything to balance the hungry children, thirsty animals, misery in tow. Moses needed distance. The complaining he was not prepared for. Clinging to his staff with both hands, Moses watched distant lights on the horizon, the kind without source. In the wilderness, dusk was converting to darkness. No longer Egyptian, never a Hebrew, Moses felt collective shame and distrust. He too was broken, dismantled.
Then, as if in a dream, his eyes turned upward. A map of stars unfolded, the endless wonder of creation, the portal to all the mysteries. His father-in law, Yitro told stories about star formation. Now he was happy to see something familiar in this landscape. He followed the patterns as he was a shepherd. He can hear the animals with their sounds and the air clearing his lungs of the day’s dust. So many bright lights that sprinkle the imagination. He would speak to them, ‘where are you from? What is your world like? How did you become? Are there lights behind you? Will you make one for me?’ A flood of ideas met his mind. Fantastic images of color and place. It was fun to play this way again. The sky became brighter and the lights crept closer. Each one had something to say. One at a time, he thought, then laughed that it’d take a lifetime for everyone to speak.
A single thought, like a faint beacon, resurrected inside. His breath heaved his chest up and down. His eyes closed but hectic. Pictures of people running wildly, scared of his image, crying mothers, families in distress, mourning. ‘This is my work!’, reverberated above the scenes. Moses came to Egypt a caller of freedom, a reminder of human sanity, a green leaf for the desert. He assumed the job of a warrior as he knew the Egyptian ways. He was of the palace. But the wrath on his Egyptian people would not serve for a dialogue. He would wreck their society with heaviness tenfold. The last being the most devastating. He would take their future with one sign. No longer would they suffer for the harvest or darkness in their ways, wild beasts in the streets, diseased flesh, or deathly rain. They would see emptiness long lasting beyond the day, Moses had taken their first born child, brought a permanent shadow into every Egyptian house.
He swallowed again and again but his mouth was dry. The lights now inches from his head, rushing the air around his body, had a strange sound, like water flowing backwards. The funneling sound getting faster to match his breathing, became unbearable. He asked the heavens to take him. How could he be stronger than this? Hearing his wishes every light dropped into his body, dotting his skin, marking him. In the silence, he could hear them claiming different places to occupy. His body became a mausoleum, a temple for grieving mothers, tattooed with payment for hate. This is his shawl, a testament to what human cruelty can do.
His breath slowed, he could feel his limbs. Eyes opened, Moses stared at the earth, afraid to look up. Dawn was coming. Black gave in to soft colors on the horizon. Still in the grip of the vision, he stood, trusting his legs down to the camp. Moses stopped, then follow a goat negotiating a rocky path. He watched the goat bend to drink. As he waited, his fingers tightened his staff. With two arms he swung the staff past the animal to its boulder destination. With great anticipation, the rock trembled, and water gushed forth, wetting everything.
Unashamed, water sprouted to announce the presence of life to every living creature in its path. The elders who had not given their ground all night, were rewarded this sight with intimate knowledge of their new leader. They would take this image throughout their travels, to the end of their lives, to inoculate their people from fear and cynicism they are so easily prone to.