The Genesis narrative of the Torah gives way to Exodus, to oppression and eventual redemption.
This coming Shabbat, we begin the reading of Exodus. Moses is introduced, found floating in the water in a wicker basket by the Pharoah’s daughter. He grows up and “he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their suffering.”(Exodus 2:11) The act of seeing, witnessing contained in the Hebrew word –“VAYAR”- is the same as that used by the Torah to indicate God’s awareness of Israel’s suffering-“God looked upon-“VAYAR”-the Israelites and took notice of them.”(Exodus 2:25)
Moses’ soul fuses with that of God in his passionate concern for the suffering of others.
To Heschel, God is all concern.
”The God of the philosophers is all indifference; too sublime to possess a heart or to cast a glance at our world. His wisdom consists of being conscious of Himself and oblivious to the world. In contrast, the God of the prophets is all concern, too merciful to remain aloof to His creation. He not only rules the world in the majesty of His might; he is personally concerned and even stirred by the conduct and fate of man.” His mercy is upon all His works.’(Psalms 145:9)” (Man is Not Alone, p.244)
It is no accident or surprise that Heschel would march in the forefront of efforts on behalf of civil rights, in Anti Viet Nam War protests, for Soviet Jewry and Israel. Wherever human beings suffered, Heschel’s God of concern demanded his concern and passionate, prophetic outcry.
Heschel’s spiritually stunning soul embraced a piece of Moses as well. The world remains indebted, grateful. May that soul add to the illumination of God’s Presence above and below.