Friday, December 24, 2010
Torah Portion: Exodus 1 thru 6:1
This week is all about Moses: his birth and rescue from the river by Pharoah's daughter. As a grown man, Moses kills an Egyptian and runs from Pharoah's kingdom, fearing his own life, leaving everything he has ever known behind.
Years later, Moses returns to Egypt with his wife and children, in obedience to God. Following God's directions, Moses and his brother Aaron approach Pharoah with a request: let the Israelites go so they can make a sacrifice to God.
Pharoah has a response to that request! He orders the taskmasters and officers in charge of the Israelites, "Don't give the people any more straw for making bricks. However, don't reduce their production quotas by a single brick, for they obviously don't have enough to do or else they wouldn't be talking about going out into the wilderness and sacrificing to their God. Load them with work and make them sweat; that will teach them to listen to Moses' and Aaron's lies!"
Given an impossible workload, the people are angry with Moses and Aaron. It is more that they can bear.
This week we are in a 'camp' up on Mount Carmel and working as part of a Christian community. My tasks have included housekeeping, washing & drying dishes, and painting. It reminds me of my first summer job as a waitress. I was 16. At the end of each shift, it was my job to clean the restrooms. The work was challenging and pretty gross, really, but I learned!
It struck me as I was mopping with an 'Israeli broom' (a cloth wound round a squeegee) that perhaps I've come full circle. Yes, the master's degree and 15 years as a school counselor are good resume builders, but in God's kingdom I'm in for tougher training!
One day after washing breakfast dishes, a few hours later, I was assigned lunch dishes as well. There were perhaps 30 prep containers, including pans and mixing bowls, along with a HUGE pot of 3-day old lentil soup that was burned on the bottom....
The work was discouraging, and there was a moment when I thought it was all tooo much! The next day, I listened to the story from an Asian woman who worked 12-hour days in the kitchen during a conference here last November. Previous to coming to Israel to volunteer, she was a university teacher in New Zealand. She has an advanced degree from Boston University.
The work was exhausting (at almost 70 years old!) but she laughed in retrospect realizing God had used the kitchen as a training ground. She was able to see how the experience had made her stronger and more humble.
The Israelites were unhappy with the increased work heaped on them. God, in His wisdom, was preparing them for the road ahead. The portion ends with God promising to Moses, "Now you will see what I shall do to Pharoah!"
God is my taskmaster. Toilets, sinks, pots & pans aside -
the JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH.
Today we had a small celebration for the women and children who live here in the shelter. Many 'nations' heard the Christmas story and received presents. Tomorrow is Shabbat and it is Christmas. Regardless of how He is celebrated, God is King.
Shalom and thank you for reading Saturday Chores.