Expectations for Moses' performance in the first debate were mixed. A poor speaker, he had won support in the first caucus, "Moses and Aaron went and gathered all the elders of the Children of Israel," not only with promises of freedom and workers' rights, but primarily with some magic tricks declared to be signs of his inevitable victory. The incumbent, Pharaoh, was considered vulnerable once followers realized that his entire stimulus package was directed toward building his own personal fortune. Refusing to take a page from American politicians who invested funds in public infrastructure, Pharaoh monopolized the entire slave program for his personal royal projects. Moses' excited supporters marched with him to the first debate and were quickly disappointed when he was simply dismissed. They watched with dismay as they saw the Israelite Party plummet in the polls, and Pharaoh further curtail workers' rights. Moses announced that he was going on a retreat to consult with God, his campaign manager, and prepare for the next debate. Commentators were critical of his Tebowing, wearing his faith on his sleeve, and predicted that Moses would quickly disappear from the political scene in Cairo.
How did the Jews experience the opening scenes in the Pharaoh-Moses Debates? Despite being desperate to believe that God "remembered them and saw their affliction," their bottom line was, "you have made our very scent abhorrent in the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants!" Pharaoh, a political mastermind, did not need to have his KGB deal with Moses; he simply waited for the Jews to deal with the problem.
But, as angry as they were, they did not lift a hand against Moses. It wasn't fear of his magical powers that stopped them; "May God look upon you and judge!" They wanted God to deal with Moses. They had just been terribly humiliated by God's messenger, and they still turn to God to manage the situation! When Moses hears their words, he realizes that he won the debate. He had the people speaking of God being directly involved in their desperate situation. They had been praying and crying out to God for years without any indication that their prayers mattered until Moses first spoke to them. The Jews now believed that God was paying attention; that their prayers and tears mattered.
I often wonder about people's prayers at the bedside of someone fighting for her life. Are they praying because they need to feel that they are doing something or because they sense that their words matter? I watched my sisters pray at my mother's side and realized that her most important lesson to her children - that our prayers matter - resonates in our souls. My mother won that debate. Her work continues to matter in the way her children pray. I do not see a sick elderly woman hooked up to all those machines. I see her in her greatness. Please pray for Shaina Chana bat Golda Feiga. It matters.
Thank You & Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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