| President Nelson Mandela bringing together Israel President Ezer Weizman and PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1994. (Photo credit: Yaacov Sa'ar, GPO) || |
As we move deeper into the 21st century, it is inevitable that we will be taking leave of the iconic leaders of the 20th century. This week we lost Nelson Mandela, the 20th century embodiment of integrity, courage, focus and wisdom.
There are many expressions of respect, mourning and identification with President Mandela from Jewish communities around the world, as well as the South African Jewish community itself. At this moment, no one would want to distance themselves from a leader that commands such universal respect.
I'd like to suggest, though, that a more meaningful tribute to the memory and meaning of Nelson Mandela finds expression in the acknowledgement of the fact that the relationship between the Jews, Israel and Nelson Mandela were not always the most amicable.
Indeed, it is no more than historical fact that Israel long supported, and sold arms to, the South African regime that oppressed and imprisoned Mr. Mandela and that Israel was among the last nations of the world to join in isolating South Africa at the end of Apartheid. For many of us in Israel, this policy was disturbing to say the least.
At the same time, Yasser Arafat and the PLO were publicly staunch supporters of Mr. Mandela and the ANC. The two liberation movements were drawn together by the parallels they perceived in their respective experiences.
Given this background, Mr. Mandela's attitude toward Israel and toward the conflicts in the Middle East are very impressive: rather than being drawn into a partisan relationship with the Palestinian people, Nelson Mandela assessed the parties involved through the lens of his own wisdom and experience. Indeed, according to an article published today in the Times of Israel, Mandela had the clear vision and presence of mind to use the occasion of his own presidential inauguration to bring the warring parties of the Middle East together.
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"In May that year , both Arafat and Israeli president Ezer Weizman were invited to Mandela’s inauguration ceremony. Since the two leaders had never met, Mandela decided soon afterward to invite them to participate in his first official working meeting as president. After a short discussion, he took them to a separate room and asked them to “sit here and talk until you finalize everything,” according to [Israel's ambassador to South Africa Alon] Liel, who accompanied Weizman to the meeting. (Arafat came with his adviser Ahmed Tibi, now a member of Knesset.)The Times of Israel
In other contexts, Nelson Mandela publicly expressed his support for a secure and stable Israel, acknowledged personal ties with South African Jews who had stood by his side in his youth, and had even commented, on the eve of his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, that Yitzhak Rabin was more deserving of that prize than himself.
In our culture of growing polarization, in politics, in economics, in religion . . . a voice of balance and integrity like Mr. Mandela's should be exalted. And the loss of such a voice should be deeply mourned.
At our Torat Yisrael annual congregational meeting last evening, I had the privilege of installing the officers and board members who will lead our congregation through the 2013-14 / 5774 year. This is one of the rabbinic tasks that gives me the greatest pleasure year after year.
Our congregation is led by an extraordinary group of committed lay leaders. I've said this for as long as I've been at Torat Yisrael, but now their accomplishments truly speak for themselves as we held an annual congregational meeting for the first time in our beautiful new synagogue building.
The booklet that is distributed at each year's annual meeting includes a list of the officers and the board members and the terms for which they are nominated to serve. About a third of our board has one year left in their term, another third has two years left, and the newest "class", of course, has three years left in their term. We designate new board members with an asterisk.
As I looked over the new list, I could not help but noticing that almost half of the group of board members who are beginning their three-year term are new to our board. That may not strike many of you as anything more than "expected." For our congregation, this is actually a very significant development. Our board includes many people who have served multiple terms: this creates an experienced leadership who bring a rich collective communal memory to the table as we plan for the future. Now, we are succeeding in reaching out and bringing new leaders to our board table. This will energize our discussion, broaden our horizons and help us develop the strong and experienced leadership that will be key to guiding our congregation in the future.
Happily, this week's Torah reading emphasizes the importance of just this dynamic of growing leadership for the future. Moses, elsewhere described as ענו מאוד [very humble / anav m'od] turns to God with concern for the welfare of the people after Moses himself will no longer lead. Moses says: "Let the Lord, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the Lord's community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd." (Numbers/Bamidbar 27:15).
Exhibiting perceptive understanding of the vulnerabilities at times of transition of leadership, God not only indicates to Moses that the "heir" who will next lead the people will be Joshua, son of Nun, but further instructs Moses to bring Joshua before the people now, before the crisis in leadership arises, and make it clear to the people that Joshua is both God's and Moses' choice to serve next as leader of the people.
We witness, at the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of the book of Joshua, that this very contentious and irritable people, the Israelites, experience the transition from Moses to Joshua seamlessly. They mourn Moses, of course, but they are supported and led through challenging times by Joshua with complete confidence in the young leader's capabilities. Joshua was designated early on. Joshua was "trained by the best." Joshua was known and respected and had earned their trust before ever he was called upon to lead the people on his own.
Of course, our situation here at Torat Yisrael is not analogous to the transitions in leadership from Moses to Joshua. But as we laud our current leadership and look to the faces of our newest leaders, we can learn much from this week's Torah Reading about leadership development and planning transitions for the future.
This week, our Torah portion contains the opening chapters of the book of Vayikra / Leviticus. In Leviticus, we will generally be taking a hiatus from the engaging narratives of Genesis / Breishit and Exodus / Sh'mot . . . and we will take up the narrative again in a few months when we embark on the book of Numbers / Bamidbar.
In the meantime, we will immerse ourselves in a book of the Torah that is refered to in our traditional sources as "Torat Kohanim" . . . basically an instruction manual for Aaron and his descendants, the Israelite priests / kohanim. What kind of sacrifices need to be brought to the Mishkan / the Tabernacle? Who shall bring those sacrifices? When?
The Kohanim function with the absolute authority of God behind them and their role in the community is established by birth: Aaron, his sons, their sons for all generations constitute the priests, the kohanim of Israel.
Rabbi Stephen Parness
Rabbi Marc Bloom
The Torah sets out parameters for priestly behavior and dress. Unique garments were created embodying the sanctity of their tasks.
The artist's rendering above is based on the descriptions in the Torah of the garments and accessories worn by Aaron and the High Priests who followed him.
Today's rabbis look a lot different ... and the roots of our office are also very different.
Rabbi David Rosen
Rabbis, as you see from my photograph above and the photographs of my three immediate predecessors at Torat Yisrael, come in all shapes and genders. We have no garments which embody the sanctity of the tasks we perform. We wear kippot and tallitot as do the members of our congregations because our role is not established by birth, we are not the descendents of anyone chosen by God.
In fact, the roots of the rabbinate can be found in something of a populist revolution beginning in the last century or so before the Common Era. Through the establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, the priestly caste had evolved into a sort of Israelite aristocracy . . . a closed circle with an essential power base, the Temple and its sacrificial cult. To be a priest, a kohein, your father had to be be a kohein. That was the only way in.
In houses of study around the Land of Israel, scholars were gathering to study the Torah and ask existential questions about the nature of Jewish practice in an economy and a cultural setting that was fundamentally different than life in the wilderness during forty years of wandering. These sages began to ask a question that we are still striving to answer today? "What is our 'best practice' as Jews in this time and this place?"
Unlike the kohanim, the only thing you needed to become a rabbi, one of these sages, was a good head on your shoulders, the willingness to study Torah with an open mind and a profound commitment to the survival of the brit, the covenant between God and the Jewish people.
These are the roots of the rabbinate which I share with Rabbi Parness, Rabbi Bloom and Rabbi Rosen . . . it has nothing to do with who our fathers were, it has nothing to do with being invested with esoteric divine powers like a priest . . . or a pope . . . it is about dedicating our lives to keep alive the unique relationship between God and the Jewish people. And that, my friends, is a privilege.
Bernie at Purim 2009
Mardis Gras. Halloween. Carnevale de Venezia. Masquerade.
It seems everyone loves a chance to dress in costumes.
Purim is such a fascinating and unique moment in the cycle of the Jewish year: It's our "let loose" moment . . . costumes, songs, raucous audience-participation during the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther), even some condoned adult tippling.
When we read the Purim story in the Scroll of Esther, however, some engaging, substantive themes emerge:
It is in this book of the Hebrew Bible that we encounter a new model of women's leadership. Vashti, King Ahashuerus's rebellious queen is banished from the throne for her non-compliance.
"Back in the day" active Megillah-listeners would hiss at the sound of Vashti's name. Today, women are more likely to cheer for the female sovereign who risked her crown to preserve her dignity.
Over the course of the Scroll, we witness Esther's transformation from a shy, self-deprecating beauty to a royal-court-savvy, assertive champion of our people, more successfully risking her crown for principle than her predecessor.
Jewish Identity in the Diaspora
Purim shares a significant distinction with the festival of Shavuot . . . neither festival takes place within the Land of Israel. What does it mean that we received the Torah (celebrated at Shavuot) and defended the security of our community (at Purim) outside the borders of the Land of Israel? This may be a question that we here in the United States may see differently than our peers living in Israel.
Too Much Bloodshed?
Whether hyperbole, fantasy or historical fact, the ninth chapter of the book of Esther relates the mechanism by which the Jews of Shushan and the Persian Empire survived. The King's order to slay the Jews (provoked by Haman) could not be revoked. There existed no mechanism for revoking a royal decree. So, the best King Ahashuerus could do was to order a second decree permitting the Jews to defend themselves. Which they did. Effectively. Enthusiastically. Throughout Shushan and its 127 provinces, over 75,000 enemies were killed by the Jews . . . who did not touch the spoils of war.
I had the opportunity to live in England for a year. A friend involved in the administration of Great Britain's equivalent of our Reform Movement explained that their tradition was to hold a board meeting the night of Purim in order to demonstrate to their non-Jewish neighbors and friends that this Jewish community would not gather to celebrate the deaths of their non-Jewish enemies.
Clearly the juvenile and family-friendly versions of the Megillah skip this chapter, but here, among adults, we are left to ponder: is the story of Purim meant to convey to our diaspora neighbors that God will protect us one way or another no matter where we live? Has the story of Purim generated hostility directed at diaspora Jewish communities over the centuries? Should we read Chapter 9 and take pride in the fact that our ancestors stood up for themselves instead of allowing themselves to be slaughtered? Do we cringe a little and wish the text of the book of Esther expressed some regret for the bloodshed?
The Priority of Community
The annual celebration of Esther and Mordechai's triumph over Haman is described in the final verses of the book of Esther. Purim is to be an occasion for feasting and merrymaking . . . for sending gifts of food to one another and sending donations to support the poor. The feasting and merrymaking are not unexpected expressions of joy, relief, celebration. I find the last two elements . . . Mishloach Manot, Sending Portions of Food to neighbors and friends and Matanot l'Evyonim, Sending Gifts to the Needy to add a quality of significance to our celebration. As we indulge in, perhaps, a little too much rich food and a little too much to drink, we are also equally expected to share our bounty with family and friends and make sure that the vulnerable among us also have cause and the means to celebrate.
Purim is most definitely fun . . . and we here at Torat Yisrael are hoping the snow won't get in the way of our celebration this year. And, between the snowflakes, we can also pause to consider some of Purim's "meatier" themes.
The photograph on the left is of a street sign in Jerusalem. As is the standard in that holy city, every street sign bears the name of the street in Israel's three official languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Only in the Hebrew does there appear a short explanation of the street name, or a short description of the person for whom the street has been named. In the case of Martin Luther King Street in Jerusalem, the epitaph appears: An American Leader. A warrior for equal rights in the United States.
This past Monday, people all over the United States, and, indeed, people all over the world, came together in celebration and remembrance . . . and appreciated the confluence of . . . President Obama's second inauguration and the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. There is no question that Reverend King would have been bursting with pride had he survived to enjoy the sight of Barak Obama taking the oath of office of President of the United States. The fact that President Obama's hand rested on Reverend King's bible . . . and Abraham Lincoln's bible . . . acknowledged with humility that President Lincoln and Reverend King made it possible for his hand to rest on their bibles.
I think, though, that Reverend King would also have acknowledged that, although we have come a long way from slavery, we have not yet reached the Promised Land. For Reverend King, visionary that he was, looking into the Promised Land in which race will be a non-issue, was also a clear-eyed leader, engaged in the real-world struggles that shackled innocent people of integrity.
For Reverend King, this week's Torah reading, Beshallach, was profoundly resonant: the people may have left slavery behind, but there is a long way to go before we reach the Promised Land. There are milestones along the way: manna and water, civil rights legislation and a black President of the United States, the attack of the Amalekites and the inordinate percentage of people of color living in poverty . . . . We are still wandering.
The Jerusalem street sign standing at the corner of Emek Refa'im and Martin Luther King Street is a banner of tribute to a man of courage who drew inspiration from the text originally written in the Hebrew of the street sign, and the Jerusalem street. That Jerusalem street sign, proclaiming Martin Luther King street, in the city at the heart of the Promised Land, also stands as a warning against complacence: Jewish sovereignty over the State of Israel does not mean that the journey is over. The inequities within Israeli society: economic, ethnic, educational must also be resolved before we can declare that the journey is over.
As we take the Torah scroll from the ark we sing "Ki mitzion teitzei Torah" ... For Torah will emanate from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem." Part of the cache of our Holy Land is the unique relationship between God and this Land. For all that the original revelation of Torah was not in the Land, we Jews have looked to the Land for the wisdom and insight of Torah for millennia.
This makes recent events emanating from Israel all the more disturbing: Ultra-orthodox Jews have intimidated and attacked females from school-age girls to professional women visiting Orthodox neighborhoods on business.
Make no mistake: This is not the Torah of 90% of the Jewish world.
But it's easy to draw attention to negatives. Congregation Moreshet Israel on Agron Street in the center of Jerusalem has decided to walk the talk of another kind of Torah . . . a truer Torah, from Jerusalem. Led by Dr. Naomi Sarig (a member of the congregation), Rene Feinstein (president of the congregation) and Rabbi Adam Frank (spiritual leader of the congregation), Moreshet Israel has decided to celebrate this year's confluence of Purim and International Women's Day with a Shabbat led entirely by women.
I am deeply honored that the congregation is flying me to Jerusalem to serve as "Rabbi in the Congregation" for Shabbat. I will have the pleasure of welcoming a series of formidable, inspiring Jewish women to Moreshet Israel's bimah to teach, to lead prayer, to preach: Professor Alice Shalvi, founder of the Israel Women's Network, Naomi Sarig
Project Coordinator, Jewish Art and Visual Culture Research Project at Tel Aviv University, Rachel Azaria, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, Emily Levy-Shochat, Chair of the Masorti Movement in Israel . . . and me!
When I was a rabbinical student, I was studying in the Israeli rabbinical school at The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. But Schechter was not officially accepting women at that time, so I was officially registered as a student of The Jewish Theological Seminary of New York. During the first few years of my rabbinical training, Schechter was undergoing a process of studying and examining and contemplating the ordination of women as rabbis. I was privileged to be a student of Rabbi Zev Falk, z"l ... a brilliant and committed and inspired professor of halacha (Jewish Law). At one of our very intense school-wide discussions of women's ordination at Schechter, Professor Falk got up and said that the Jewish people had been robbed of the teaching and insights of Torah for too long. We have the Talmud of the men, Professor Falk declared, it is time to train women so that we can also embrace the Talmud of the women.
Professor Falk used to be a member of the daily minyan at Moreshet Israel, he would have been so proud of the Shabbat we are about to celebrate there this week: It will be a Shabbat of women's Torah, Talmud, prayer and inspiration.
I am wishing all my Torat Yisrael members a warm "Shabbat Shalom" now because I will not be in Rhode Island this Shabbat. For four years, I have enjoyed the privilege (and I really mean "enjoyed") of mentoring senior rabbinical students at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS).
The Legacy Heritage Foundation wanted to address the struggles of many tiny Jewish congregations around the United States and crafted a unique Fellowship program which grants funding to a select group of senior rabbinical students at JTS the opportunity to provide rabbinic leadership to congregations too small to sustain even a part-time rabbi on their own. By definition, these students are working in congregations in which there is no rabbi in the community to provide guidance, serve as a sounding board, make helpful suggestions. That's where I come in. As a mentor, I speak with my rabbinical students as they prepare for their monthly visits to their congregations, I debrief them afterwards and help them process their experiences.
As a mentor, I also spend one Shabbat a year with each of my students so I can see for myself how they "present" on the pulpit, how they interact with the members of their communities, what teaching skills they are mastering.
So I will be in Reno, Nevada for Shabbat sitting in the back of the sanctuary taking mental notes about one of my very intelligent, creative, energetic and inspiring students.
This is a great Shabbat for me to be with Zach. Not necessarily because Reno weather is better than East Greenwich weather (although it will be a few degrees warmer) but because our parashah/Torah reading this week begins with a short illustration of successful collaborative leadership. Which is most certainly an approach that new rabbis should learn to appreciate.
At the beginning of Chapter 7 of Sh'mot/Exodus, towards the middle of the parashah, God, Moses and Aaron are gathered in a strategy session. The goal is to extricate the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and to unequivocally prove to Pharaoh that the God of the Israelites is so universal a God, that the distance between the Israelite God's "home turf" of Canaan means nothing. Geographical boundaries, prior claims of local pre-eminence by local Egyptian gods all count as nothing when the God of Israel is roused to redeem Israel.
God says: "You [Moses] shall speak everything that I command you; and Aaron, your brother, shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go . . . and I'll harden Pharaoh's heart, and I'll multiply My signs and wonders . . . and Egypt will know that I am Adonay when I reach out My hand on Egypt, and I'll bring out the children of Israel from among them."
According to our tradition, Moses will become the progenitor of the rabbinic role and Aaron became the progenitor of the Kohanim, the priestly caste. At this pre-exodus moment though, they are learning how to work as a team: the vision conveyed by Moses is as crucial to the success of the effort as is the polished oration of Aaron. The only way to move Pharaoh and to fill the children of Israel with the confidence to leave the familiar role of slavery is for the leadership to communicate well with each other, share a vision, and then to continually communicate and share with the people themselves. Each brings strengths and gifts and shortcomings to the role of leader and it is only by working together that their strengths are elevated and their shortcomings diminished.
Mountains can be moved with that kind of mutual respect and team work.
In this week's parashah, we continue to engage in dreams. Last week, we marveled along with Joseph's family, at the self-aggrandizing spins Joseph put on his dreams . . . and the seeming cluelessness of that young dreamer regarding the effect of is dreams on those around him.
From a dream about sheaves of wheat and heavenly bodies, Joseph cheerfully and unhesitatingly notifies his family of his expectation of grandeur. For the most part, Joseph's dreams will, as we know, come true . . . his brothers and his father will come to bow down to him at Pharaoh's court. But, unforeseen by Joseph, his beloved mother who waited so long for his birth, will be spared that particular humiliation: Rachel will die before her husband, his other progeny and her youngest child are forced to settle in Egypt.
Rabbi Chaim Stern in his rich anthology, Day by Day: Reflections on the Themes of the Torah, remarks: "Joseph is called [from prison] to interpret Pharoah's dreams. Pharaoh says to Joseph: I have heard this about you: you have but to hear a dream to interpret it (Genesis/Breishit 41:15). Pharaoh, struck by Joseph's brilliant understanding, gives him control over Egypt: he is to be second only to Pharaoh. The boy who once dreamed of glory, gains it by understanding the dreams of others."
It seems that Joseph did a lot of growing up somewhere between the pit his brothers threw him into and the prison Pharaoh threw him into: Joseph learned humility. When credited with a certain genius regarding the interpretation of dreams that confound even Pharaoh's most seasoned seers, Joseph steps out of the limelight and credits his insight to God. When given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, the newly matured Joseph sees not himself, but others, at the center of the royal scene.
Ironically, it is when Joseph steps aside, publicly deferring to the inspiration of the God of Israel, that Joseph rises in the Pharaoh's esteem. Faith, leadership, wisdom, respect and perspective all seem to benefit from a capacity to learn from life's lessons and a willingness to live in the shadow of God.
Parashat Tazria Torah Reading: Leviticus 12:1-13:59
I have just returned from the annual Rabbinical Assembly Convention, spending five days with my colleagues, studying, sharing, relaxing and even experiencing Tai Chi! We meet in a different city every year and this year we met in a conference center in Las Vegas! Several hundred rabbis from Canada, the United States, Latin America and Israel came together catching up with old friends and making new connections as well.
The last D'var Torah / sermon we heard at morning minyan yesterday morning was presented by Rabbi Adam Watstein, the Assistant Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Las Vegas. Rabbi Watstein's D'var Torah was the perfect inspirational message to help us transition from the unique atmosphere of the Rabbinical Assembly Convention back to our congregations, schools, Hillels, chaplaincies and the myriad other venues in which Conservative/Masorti rabbis serve: Rabbi Watstein described a moment, sitting in his office, when a kid in the room on the other side of the wall to his office bounced a ball hard against the wall. A number of books fell of a shelf and onto the floor.
The books of course, fell open on the floor and, as Rabbi Watstein picked them up, he stopped and looked at each page that was open. The books were volumes he had had in his library since he was a teenager. The books were highlighted, underlined, and annotated with marginal notes. As Rabbi Watstein perused each volume, he revisited the years of his life during which he fell in love with Judaism. All that passion, enthusiasm and exploration came back to him. All the day-to-day engagements of the rabbinic day -- meetings, deadlines, time management challenges -- all fell away and all the energy and inspiration that led him to the rabbinate were back.
Rabbi Watstein encouraged us all to get in touch with those pre-ordination days, to refresh ourselves by reliving the texts, the experiences, the passions that inspired us to become rabbis in the first place . . . and to bring that energy back with us to our post-Convention "real lives."
This is what happened in Vegas . . . and isn't staying in Vegas.
Parashat Vaera Torah Reading: Exodus 6:2-9:35
If I were to write a subtitle for this week's parashah / Torah reading, it would be: "This Isn't as Easy as It Looks."
We are familiar with the phenomenon of Moses's self-doubt: Three chapters ago, at the iconic moment at the burning bush, God described the mission that will shape the rest of Moses's life. Moses's immediate response was: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring out the children of Israel from Egypt?" (Sh'mot/Exodus 3:11)
God's response is: "I will be with you." In other words, "don't worry, you've got the ultimate team leader to guide you, to inspire you. I've got your back."
And off Moses goes, back to Egypt.
At the opening of this week's Torah reading, God presents Moses with his first script. Tell the Israelites: "I am Adonay. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob . . . and I established My covenant with them, to give them the Land of Canaan . . . and I shall take you to Me as a people, and I shall become your God, and you'll know that I am Adonay, your God, who is bringing you out from under Egypt's burdens. . . . " (6:3,4,7)
Do you know what happens when Moses delivers the message?
"...they did not listen to Moses. . ." (6:9) And although you'd think God would have followed the conversation, Moses reports back: Here, the children of Israel didn't listen to me, and how will Pharaoh listen to me?!" (6:12)
And sure enough, armed with a repertoire of wonders, besting Pharaoh's magicians trick for trick, Moses and Aaron present God's message:
"And Pharaoh's heart was strong, and he did not listen to them--as Adonay had spoken." (7:13)
In preparing Moses, and Aaron, for their leadership roles in this enterprise of extracting the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, God has prepared the brothers for Pharaoh's resistance.
But, from the evidence of the text itself it seems as though the Israelite resistance to God's message is a surprise. We might assume that a bona fide message by a hand-picked messenger would carry a lot of weight. That has to be the ultimate confidence-booster for the person delivering the message. And yet, neither the Israelites, nor Pharaoh, listen to Moses.
Credibility is a tremendous issue when it comes to leadership. This week's Torah reading sheds light on a number of issues relating to leaders, their message and who listens to them.
We come to understand that even a human being armed with the greatest truth in the world feels self-doubt when the moment of standing in the spotlight arrives.
We come to understand that it is crucial to understand the reality of the people who are meant to take in the message.
We come to understand that it is much easier to dismiss a not-readily understood message than to stretch to understand it.
There should have been no greater natural alliance than that of Moses and the Israelites, joined together by their relationship to the God of their ancestors and bound to each other by the goal of leaving Egyptian slavery behind them.
Moses and God missed one crucial step: taking the time to build trust. God has a history with this people: "I am Adonay. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob . . . and I established My covenant with them, to give them the Land of Canaan . . . " but this generation does not know God the way Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. Moses has no history with this people: he was removed from this community at birth and reappears to them speaking like an Egyptian noble. With 20/20 hindsight, it is easy for us to posit the missing step . . . taking time to build experiences together, learning to speak the same language, building a collective history.
Moses and God might have felt that they didn't have the luxury of time to build that trust . . . there was a small window of opportunity to get the plagues delivered and to redeem the people. The course of events would, of course, prove that Moses was a credible leader and the truth he delivered was indeed God's truth.
Those of us who react to a new message by shutting out the message . . . and the messenger . . . might look with some humility at our Israelite ancestors and choose to allow for the possibility that we are being delivered of a truth we had never considered before.