The Calling of Moses as the Leader of Israel
As I was preparing my Torah study of Parashah Shemot (Exodus) 1:1- 6:1, I was fascinated by the birth and calling of Rabbenu Moshe (our teacher Moses). I enjoy studying the legends of our people since they help me to be better prepared to be a witness for our Messiah Yeshua. As a Sephardic Jew I like to find the common ground that we as Messianic Jews share with our sages. It is no longer a surprise to me after many so years of studying our sages that I find the many parallels which can be drawn between the births of Yeshua and Moshe.
There is clear evidence in the Messianic Writings that the supernatural birth of Yeshua was not merely an attempt by the talmidim (disciples) to fabricate an extraordinary tale but was based on the pre-existent Jewish folklore of the day. In his excellent book “The Messiah in the Old Testament in the light of Rabbinical Writings”, Professor Risto Santala tells us that”…the Messiah as the second Moses in Rabbinical literature presents parallels between similar types of fact, following the qal vaHomer (from the light to the heavy) Jewish principle of interpretation… In the same way one of the most frequently used parallels is the likening of Messiah to the first savior, Moses (Page 57).” If we follow the advice of the Talmud in that “All the prophets prophesied only for the days of Messiah” (Berachot 34b), we can see how important it is for us to know our own roots.
The Chumash (Pentateuch) by Rabbi Yaacov Benzaquen contains a very surprising statement: “Our prophet Moses had an unusual conception and birth, according to the legends of our people….when Pharaoh gave the decree that all the male boys born from Israel needed to be drowned in the River (i.e. killed), the people of Israel got divorced in order to not have more children. Amram and Yochabed were separated (divorced) but Miriam prophesied that Moses was going to be born and that he would be the Savior of Israel (Sotah 11b, 12a; Meg. 14a; Ex. R. 1.24; compare with Josephus, “Ant.” 2. 9,) Amram and Yochabed remarried (some legends say that before Amram knew Yochabed, she was already with a child from the Ruach HaQodesh) and the light of Israel was born.”
The word teva תבה appears twice in the Torah. The first time with Noah meaning the ark and the second time referring to the basket in which Moshe was placed to save his life. The name Moshe means “to be drawn out of the water” or to be saved from the waters. Noah represents the first man who saved the whole world out of the water. Through him, humanity was saved from destruction. All the families of the earth today have descended from Noah. Moshe was saved out of the water in order to be the Redeemer of Israel. Through the redemption of Israel comes the redemption of the world. In the messianic writings we see Yeshua coming out of the water when Yochanan was immersing the people in order for them to do Teshuvah. In Matthew 3:13-17 it is written as follows: 13 Then Yeshua appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be immersed by Yochanan. 14 Yochanan tried to dissuade him, with the words, ‘It is I who need to be immersed by you, and yet you come to me!’15 But Yeshua replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands.’ Then Yochanan gave in to him. 16 And when Yeshua had been immersed he at once came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of G-d descending like a dove and coming down on him. 17 And suddenly there was a voice from heaven, ‘This is my son, the beloved; my favour rests on him.’
Since the disciples of Yeshua spoke Hebrew, not Greek and came from a culture that was completely different from Greek, certain traditions have been completely misunderstood. In this case where Yeshua is being immersed, G-d is giving us a picture the same as the ark. Remember, G-d was speaking to the Hebrew people at the time of Yeshua. They understood these pictures. Yeshua was being “drawn out of the water” like Moses was, like Noah had been and with this simple act, he was letting the people of that time know that he was the Messiah.
In another legend we see the influence of Moshe even in the activity of the days of creation—heaven and Earth were created for his sake (Lev.R.36. 4). In another account in Gen.1:6-8)…”And G-d saw it was good “because G-d foresaw that Moshe was going to suffer through water (Gen. R. 4.8). Another story states that at the moment of his birth, a peculiar light entered his home….Moshe was circumcised on the eighth day after birth as Yeshua was. (Pirke R. El. 48). There are many more legends about Moshe during his life and relationship with Messiah, all of which of course in order to fulfill Deut. 18: 15-19.
Thus it became easy for me to see how to explain the miraculous birth of our Messiah Yeshua, whose life can be compared with Moshe as the leader of Israel, and the model of godly leadership.
From his birth, Moshe was separated by G-d to be the leader who would liberate Israel from slavery, in the same way that Yeshua would liberate Israel from the slavery to religion and bring them back to Torah. Moshe was prepared in the elitist of schools of his day; he was in the court of Pharaoh and he enjoyed the best teachers. As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s sister, he needed to be prepared in the area of leadership and administration; areas he would need at a later date to fulfill his important role as the leader of Israel.
From the moment of his calling by G-d at the burning bush (sena סנה in Hebrew, Ex. 3:1ff) to his death before the crossing of the Yarden (the Jordan River – Deut. 34:1-12) Moshe had a unique relationship with G-d and with which only Yeshua can be compared.
Moshe was a most reluctant leader. From the beginning he tried by all means to pass the calling onto someone else…’who am I to go to Pharaoh?… what is His Name?. What will I say?…(Ex. 3:11-13); …But, they will not believe me and will not listen my voice…I beg you Lord, I am not a man of words…I beg you Lord send anyone…(Ex. 4:1,10,13). Seven times he looked for a reason not to fulfill his calling. Moshe said to G-d, I am a man of uncircumcised lips as one of his excuses. The word used for uncircumcised is aral – ערל. The picture given here is one of something that’s covering his lips that does not allow him to be open to being used by G-d. We see the same picture given by Moshe himself and the prophets later like Jeremiah, when he spoke about the circumcision of the heart. This is not a literal circumcision. It means that the heart needs to be open to G-d, not covered by our stubbornness. In the Hebrew understanding the heart is the seat of intelligence and thinking process. It does not represent feelings or emotions. Our Scriptures speak of the pagans being the uncircumcised. This does not necessarily have anything to do with physical circumcision, but refers to their openness or understanding to follow the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
At the end G-d provided him helpers in Aharon, Miriam and Yehoshua (Joshua), and G-d Himself was with him at all times. Moshe spoke with G-d in a direct way unlike the other prophets. He interceded before G-d for his people. Though Moshe was a humble man, he lost his temper with his people that one time when he disobeyed God and struck the rock. This cost him dearly so that he would not be able to enter the Promised Land (Num. 20:12-13). For us it is might be difficult to understand why G-d would mete out such a severe punishment to such a special man but according to our sages, the more that is given to you, the more is required from you!
Here we can observe that the Scriptures are genuinely G-d’s revelation; He does not spare any of our heroes of the faith and shows them as they are— mere human beings without cosmetics. Since the Glory belongs to our G-d and not to us, we cannot take any credit. Moshe always put G-d and Israel first; he saw himself as an instrument of G-d without taking his own position into consideration (how I wish that these words would ring true in all of us). Even his own children, Gershom and Eleazer were lost as part of the tribe of Levi and were not counted as part of the foundation of the Priesthood as were the children of his brother Aharon.
We often admire leaders, who are the center of everything; their names are written in bold letters, their pictures are everywhere for everyone to adulate. What a difference for us to see the faithful servant who truly rejoices because he has been able to do the work of his Lord. We hear very little about these people who are quietly performing their labors of love but the Lord who knows them in secret will openly reward them.
When we learn about leadership it is important to know that responsibility comes with the calling and we cannot run away from it. Sooner or later we will be doing what we were called to do. In my personal life, I have often asked myself if I could be doing something else, something more prosperous for the good of my family. Like Moses I too have tried many times to argue with G-d about sending someone else but I have not been given the go ahead to avoid my calling. This brings to mind a scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”, where Tevye our central figure, in one of his many prayers asks G-d a valid question, “Lord I know that we are the chosen people, but for just once couldn’t you chose someone else?”
If G-d has called us let us be assured that he has been with us from the beginning and that He has prepared the works which we will do in advance. In the meantime, let us turn to our calling and be faithful to do it because He is with us morning, noon and night.
As followers of Messiah Yeshua we can say with confidence as Phillip said to Nathaniel, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Torah and about whom the prophets also wrote “(Yochanan 1:45).