Having just completed another High Holy Day season we have all revisited that age old question — Who am I?
Hopefully we continue to learn from our past experiences and will continue to grow and mature with each passing season. How we answer the question this year should be different than how we answered it last year as we strive to make a difference in this world.
Moses, tending his father-in-law’s flock in the wilderness, came to Horeb and an angel of the Lord appears to him in a blazing fire out of a bush. We are taught that the bush was a thorn bush, the humblest, least impressive of the trees and plants. God, who is concerned about a tiny, oppressed people, chooses to appear in this lowly bush. Exodus Rabba teaches us that “no place is devoid of God’s presence, not even a thorn bush.”
When called upon by God to free the Israelites from Egypt, Moses the reluctant prophet asks, “Who am I? His immediate reaction is one of doubt exhibiting his own belief that he is not worthy. Some might call it humility others may look upon it as weakness. God responds, “I will be with you.” Of course, the rest is history.
Moses is perhaps the ultimate example of one person being able to make a difference in the future of his people. The Israelites were suffering under the yoke of a tyrant. Their lives dimmed by the harsh reality of slavery. One can only imagine the despair and the hopelessness that each new day brought with no apparent future.
Our lives today are dimmed as each new day is welcomed by accounts of hopelessness that pervade our society and the world in which we live. The harsh economic conditions have caused so many to lose savings or jobs. Our beloved Israel continues to be challenged by its enemies. We are continually reminded each day of how individuals can have a negative impact on society.
Like Moses at the burning bush and Jacob before him who woke up and realized that “God was in this place and I did not know it,” we must open our eyes to the presence of God for “no place is devoid of it.” In these troubled times we must step forward and ask, who am I? But we must put aside our humility or weakness, or self-doubt to answer the call. There are too many of our fellow human beings who need our help, our compassion our support.
As we sit in our sukkas this year we realize that we can make a difference. We can bring a little light that has the potential to bring warmth and comfort to so many. And like Moses we know that we will not be going at it alone — God will be with us with each and every step of the way.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)