For this week we step away from the regular Torah readings in Leviticus, and turn back to Exodus 33:12 – 34:26 to a portion chosen especially for the Shabbat in Passover.
This portion, which is also read on the other two pilgrimage festivals, was likely selected because its final verses (Ex. 34:18 – 26) concern the laws of celebrating Shabbat and the pilgrimage festivals. The earlier verses, though, record the conversation between Moses and God at the time that Moses was given the second set of commandments on Mount Sinai.
The text begins with Moses speaking to God, saying “See, you say to me, ‘lead these people forward, but You have not made known to me whom You will send with me...’” (Ex. 33:12) Moses says this despite the fact that God had stated, only ten verses earlier, “I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go in your midst since you are a stiff-necked people, lest I destroy you on the way (Ex. 33:2-3). It is not that Moses didn’t know the answer; he just didn’t like it. Responsible for getting God’s rebellious and disorganized chosen people into the land that God had promised them, he wanted something better than a mere angel. And, lo and behold, God changes His mind and agrees: “I will go in the lead and lighten your burden” (Ex. 33:14). But Moses is still not satisfied, “Unless you go in the lead, do not make us leave this place. For how shall it be known that Your people have gained Your favor unless You go with us, so that we may be distinguished, Your people and I, from every people on the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:15-16)
When we have a heavy responsibility, we want to know that we are not alone. We need God’s assurance of His presence with us. And when we think God is not with us, sometimes we just need to ask again to be sure.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach,