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    Who was Moses – Va’era

    Moses & Aaron, by Hans Sebald Beham, 16th century

    Moses & Aaron, by Hans Sebald Beham, 16th century

    There is a classical essay by Ahad HaAm which asks the question, “Who essentially was Moses?”

    Ahad HaAm examines a number of theories, e.g. Moses was a general, Moses was a legislator, Moses was a prophet. Another approach comes in the Torah itself. In Ex. 2:19 he is called ish mitzri, “an Egyptian man”. In Deut. 33:1 he is called “the man of God”.

    The Midrash says that both descriptions are accurate, but they represent two quite different stages in his life. Moses began as an Egyptian, brought up in the royal court and educated in Egyptian culture.

    Eventually he was the Man of God. His whole life was a struggle between secular culture and spiritual commitment.

    By the end of his life no-one thought of him as an Egyptian any more, but the influence of his childhood culture never left him. It gave him a broad outlook, trained him to deal with people and situations, but also showed him the drawbacks of a milieu in which there was widespread ethical injustice and gross immorality.

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