It is well known that new beginnings can be very challenging. Often, we begin a new year, or even a new month, with resolutions, only to find ourselves rapidly slipping back into old habits and patterns. But, then, at other times, we somehow find strength and determination, wisdom and inspiration that help us to reach new heights and to succeed where we have not previously succeeded!
As we began to read our weekly Torah portion of VaEra, describing Moses and Aaron’s repeated attempts to free our people from Pharoah’s grip, many of us were simultaneously reflecting on the things we hoped for at the beginning of the new year 2016.
The story of the Exodus helps us to understand our own occasional sense of helplessness in the face of patterns that enslave us. It also helps us to discern how we can overcome great obstacles to move forward toward a better future.
Our Torah portion portrays Moses, our great leader, prophet, and teacher, as very human. Moses was insecure. He was surrounded by people who doubted that he could succeed. The Egyptians were unimpressed by Moses. The Israelites, who were enslaved by the Egyptians, were so overwhelmed and exhausted that they could not hear God’s message resonating in the voice of Moses.
The power of this story for all generations is in the fact that within each of us, there is, from time to time, a bit of Moses – the insecure leader, surrounded by people who doubt his ability to succeed; and a bit of the Israelites – enslaved, overwhelmed and exhausted. And yet, despite the odds, the biblical story unfolds slowly but surely toward a dramatic change for the good. Our people are eventually led by Moses and Aaron and Miriam, out of slavery, to Mount Sinai, and then on toward a new found freedom in the Promised Land!
The message of Torah for all generations is a message of vision, of determination, and of hope.
No matter how insecure we may feel, no matter the odds that are against us, no matter the patterns that threaten to keep us enslaved – we may still hope to connect with the voice of leadership within ourselves and raise ourselves up, individually and collectively, to new levels of freedom and of accomplishment!
This Shabbat, we will recite the blessing for the new Jewish month of Shevat. Rosh Chodesh Shevat will begin this coming Sunday evening and Monday. As we recite the blessing for the month of Shevat, let us lift our eyes upward, and keep our minds and our hearts open to new opportunities for growth and for positive change. And may it be a month of true blessing, of deepening freedom, and of lasting peace for all!