My current day job is working at Central Synagogue as the assistant to the associate rabbis. Every Friday we have a staff kiddush, which is the weekly ceremony of challah and wine at sundown on the Sabbath. Each week a different member of the staff gives a drash, a sermon on the Biblical portion of the week.  I did not grow up Jewish, so my perspective is absolutely that of an outsider. But the rabbis have told me that they have really enjoyed what I've had to say, so maybe its good enough to share with the greater public. Granted these are not actually the portions of this week, but hopefully we can find wisom from it at any point in the year and I thought it might be nice to share. Here's a link to a summary of the portion.  What do you think? Did I miss my calling as a rabbi?

Sh’mot marks the beginning of a new book of the Torah. A new generation of Jews now dwell in Egypt. The empire has a new pharaoh - who doesn’t remember, or chooses to forget that a Jew used to be the second in line. Needless to say the emotional climate is a little bit cooler
than before.

What do we see as we begin the passage? Fear. Everyone is terrified. Pharaoh is terrified that the nation of Israel would become too strong and usurp him. The midwives are terrified that either God or Pharaoh will punish them. Moses’s mother was afraid that he would be killed, then Moses’s adopted mother was afraid he’d be killed. Moses grows up. I’m sure everyone stayed pretty afraid
during that span of years. Moses kills the Egyptian. He’s afraid the Egyptians are gonna get him so he high-tails it out of there. 
 
For a time, things seem to be going better for him. He’s a stranger in a strange land, he’s run away from his problems, he’s got himself a family and a flock. Things are looking up. Then everything changes. God calls…and Moses responds. 
 

“Here I Am.” 


I for one can’t think of a more powerful statement, or action. It is brimming with vulnerability yet at the same time full of courage.  “For what it’s worth… Look at me, here I am.”  Moses stands up to be counted before his creator.  How does God respond? The exact same way. “I AM”. But something is different about how God says it. It is a statement of infinite strength. I am whatever I choose. I am whatever I need to be. I am…gonna get you out of Egypt so just trust me. 

When you declare yourself to be something - you cannot hide from it anymore. You own it. Moses owned it reluctantly, and God obviously owned it completely. But look at what even a reluctant hero can perform?  I honestly don’t think that if Moses had refused to go, I mean utterly said “no” that God would have made him go. He  could have find someone else to do it. There were a number of Jews at that point. Aaron could have been put in charge. But it was Moses who declare himself, and that was the first step. God works through, not in spite of. He announced himself a vessel of God’s will, and through him God worked miracles.

So maybe that is the secret? The simple act of declaring something to be so sets the wheels in motion to make it so. Obviously we are not blessed with a serpent staff, but there is power in us nonetheless. I don’t think it’s any coincidencethat most self-help programs, be them religious based or secular have a very heavy emphasis on daily affirmations. It seems clear from at least my practical experience that a lot also depends on how much we believe these affirmations, how much fear is getting in our own way. But even a scared outcast stood before his creator and later saves a nation. And it all began with “I am.”





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