Parshat Shemot: Goodness as true redemption (II)

As we have mentioned often, the essential message of the Torah is goodness as the cause and purpose in God’s creation, and it is presented as an ethical principle for humankind to relate to it, for goodness is the foundation of life. We also have said that the vessel of goodness must be also goodness as our bond with God.

“And the woman conceived, and bore a son; and she saw him that he was a good, she hid him three months.” (Exodus 2:2)

Our Sages comment thoroughly on this verse, beginning with the question of how Moses’ mother “saw” that her newborn was “good”. We may say that all babies are good, and in this case the Torah invites us to reflect more in goodness than in the newborn that can’t express it in words or actions. They say that she saw “the light” in her son; and as the Torah said earlier, “And God saw the light that was good (…)” (Genesis 1:4). Hence she saw goodness radiating from her newborn.

In the material world, darkness exists as a reference for light, for we understand and assimilate light only in contrast to darkness. We can’t define the former without the latter, as it also happens with wright and wrong, positive and negative, useful and useless, constructive and destructive, et al. Thus we understand goodness as the referential ruling principle that we have mentioned. Goodness is the moral imperative to approach human life in this world.

In this general context we see the kind of goodness that Moses’ mother saw in him as the expected quality needed to light up the darkness inherent in the Egyptian society of those times. Seeing light in the midst of darkness was the beginning of the redemption long awaited by the enslaved Jews under Pharaoh’s rule.

This goodness remained in Moses during his youth and adult life amid what some of our Sages have called the most abject nation that ever existed, and Pharaoh’s palace was not the exception. The situation of Moses’ moral integrity reminds us Joseph’s in similar circumstances. Thus we realize the moral caliber of our most outstanding Hebrew ancestors.

Me have said in other commentaries on this portion of the Torah that Moses lived 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian, and 40 years in the desert, for 120 years that made him the most important Jewish leader of all times.

The fundamental reason for this unique status is Moses’ faithfulness to goodness as the cause and purpose of his life. Thus he became the vessel for the mission God entitled him to accomplish. In this sense we also realize that humility is the natural vessel for goodness, and we understand why he called himself “the humblest man who ever lived”.

Once we assimilate goodness in its ethical essence, we also understand darkness with its ways and expressions as the character traits we have to remove in order to make our consciousness the vessel for goodness to rule every aspect and facet of life. Thus we approach the following verse, for as we have said, goodness is our bond with the Creator of all.

“And He said, ‘Certainly, I will be with you; and this shall be the token unto you, that I have sent you. When you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain’.” (3:12)

Moses’ mission was not only to deal with Pharaoh’s stubbornness and make him free the Jewish people, but to awaken in them the same goodness that enable us to serve God by having, being and doing goodness as the destined purpose of humankind in this world.

The Psalmist echoes this in his countless pleas to learn the ways, means and attributes of goodness.

“Send out Your light and your truth. Let them lead me, let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your tents.” (Psalms 43:3)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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