How many times in our lives have we totally immersed ourselves in our work, in a project or in a relationship, and then because of one oversight, one slight miscalculation, one moment of negligence, the entire project or relationship falls apart before our very eyes? How many times have we just not saved our work on the computer, seen the screen suddenly go blank, and with it all of our efforts?
Paying attention to detail, not letting the little things slide is an idea found in our parsha, Parshat Beshalach. This week, the Jewish people finally begin the first stage of their journey out of Egypt as a free people. After centuries of waiting, after centuries of hoping and praying that God would redeem them from their slavery, the people’s dream of freedom and redemption is finally coming true. But amidst the euphoria, the excitement and the hurriedness of the moment, Moshe was nowhere to be found. Where was he?
Well, the Midrash tells us exactly where he was: "All Israel were busying themselves with silver and gold. But Moshe was busying himself with the bones of Yosef." Why was Moshe busying himself with such a trivial, unglamorous task when the rest of the people were indulging in the spoils and treasures of Egypt? The answer to this question can be found at the end of Parshat Vayechi, as it says, "Then Yosef made the Children of Israel swear, saying, 'When God will indeed remember you, then you must bring up my bones out of here' " (Bereshit 50: 25).
Thus, we see that the exodus could not have occurred if Moshe did not take out the bones of Yosef from Egypt. All of the wonders, all of the miracles, all of the plagues would have amounted to nothing if Moshe did not take the time and make the effort to fulfill the one instruction Yosef gave to his family – which, when placed within the broader context of the story of the exodus, seems quite trivial.
But as is so often the case, those seemingly trivial details prove to be the pillars upon which a greater endeavor or relationship depends. If Moshe only focused on the bigger picture – on the exodus, on redemption, on covenant, on land, and lost sight of the tiny details, like the mitzvah of taking out Yosef's bones, the whole enterprise would have failed. But because he made sure that every detail, no matter how small or difficult, was taken care of, the bigger picture of the Jewish people’s national redemption was able to be realized.
This Shabbat, let's all learn from Moshe's focus and attention to detail. When we encounter moments in our own lives which seem to engage every energy and resource we have, let's try to remember that the ultimate success of the bigger picture we're so heavily invested in, whatever it may be, might all hang on one, seemingly tiny detail: On one word that could have or should have been said, on one phone call we could have made, on one click of the 'save' button!
I hope we can all take the time to pause to remember those tiny details when we get overwhelmed, so that when it counts, our "big pictures" can be realized.