5/31/2018

Shabbat Beha'aloteha

Candles - June 1st @ 8:01 pm
Havdalah - June 2nd @ 8:57 pm

One of the challenges of reading the Torah in our modern world is that the Torah was not given or written under the same sort of rules as we are used to now. For example, the Torah does not always follow a logical sequence. The Talmud says “Ein Me’oochar Umukdam BaTorah.” The Torah does not necessarily follow chronological order. Every text can be interpreted differently. Prophecy in the Torah, for example, works on lots of different levels with different people. It does not always mean the same thing. The Torah often wants a message to be more important than the facts.

This week we will read about Moses asking his father-in-law to come with them into the Promised Land. And Jethro politely declines. Moses repeats the offer. And we don't know what happened. Did he go or did he stay? Except that later Jethro’s family did join the Israelites.

But earlier in Exodus 18:27 Jethro came to visit Moses and brought his wife and children in the first year of the Exodus. He says how much he identifies and accepts God. And he gave Moses advice to appoint seventy elders to help him. He then went home. Now a year later he seems to be back. And this time, it is God who tells Moses to appoint the seventy elders.

Is it a coincidence that the two issues, Jethro joining or going and the seventy elders are brought together, once in Exodus and now, here? Were these two separate incidents or the same? We don’t know for certain.

In reality the facts matter less than the idea. Even in our day different people see the same events differently. But it is still possible to agree on a message. When things happen, they are the result of a combination of several different factors, perspectives and situations. In psychology it is called Gestalt. You take the wider picture instead of focusing on details.

Perhaps it was God’s inspiration that led to Jethro’s advice. Perhaps he wanted to go but changed his mind. There are lots of possibilities. What matters are the ideas. There are options and we have ability to choose. And we pray for God to help us make the right decisions.