This week is the start of the second book of Torah,
or Exodus, also the name of the
Shemot opens with a listing of the names (shemot) of those descendants of Jacob who were settled in Egypt and becoming populous.
The second paragraph describes the rise of a new pharaoh "who did not know Joseph" and the subsequent enslavement of our people, along with decrees for hard labor and the killing of all Israelite sons. We are introduced to Shifra and Puah, midwives, who bravely refused to follow Pharaoh's order (since he was 'god', orders were disobeyed under the penalty of death) and to the birth of Moses and his being reared in the palace (all within a page!)
And then we come to the verse: "And Moses grew up and went out to his people and saw their burdens."
The story itself is so compelling, so full of intrigue and suspense that we could easily skip over the verse to get to the rest of the narrative (Moses' striking the Egyptian taskmaster, which gets him expelled from Egypt and sends him into the wilderness where he eventually makes it to the tent of Jethro, the priest of Midian; Moses marries Tziporah, Jethro's first-born daughter, becomes a shepherd and encounters God in the burning bush at Mt. Horeb. He is given the directive to return to Egypt to tell Pharaoh "Let My (God's) People Go." Moses and his brother Aaron reunite and together approach Pharaoh, whose heart is hardened and the plight of the Israelites worsens).
The natural thing to do would have been to look out for his own interests and return to the protection and privilege of palace life. But....the entire course of human history changed because, in one particular moment, Moses chose differently and aligned himself with our people - his people - a nation of oppressed and condemned slaves.
There are hundreds of bonds of history, of fate and of faith that unite us as a people. May we come to realize that as we connect with things larger than ourselves, that we grow as well, and come to experience what it is that our hearts and soils ultimately seek.