When the President Let Me Down

prez sealIt’s hard to fathom. Imagine being promised by the President of the United States that you would be fully backed by the U.S. to perform a particular operation that was necessary to advance the agenda of the country. Signed on the document which promises you complete access to anything you’ll need to make your mission successful, are signatures from every branch of the U.S. Government, from the president, the vice president, the senate, the house, and the supreme court. You are even told that the upper echelons of the CIA will be charged to your safety and that a special elite task force of the U.S. Armed Forces is dedicated to, literally, monitor your every move to ensure your safety and guarantee your success.
Now, imagine if after this major show of support and reinforcements, from the onset the mission goes sour. From your vantage point, not one promise was kept. No one was covering you in monumental moments of struggle. The CIA and the Army were nowhere to be found. Despair, frustration and anger begin to set in.
This is where our portion picks up. Imagine Moses (Moshe), who is perhaps the oldest example of someone who “refuses the call,” forcefully argues with G-d that he is not the one to lead the Jewish people out of their captivity from Egypt. A week of negotiations between himself and G-d culminate with a reluctant acceptance of his new role among the Jewish people. A reconciliation by G-d concludes with: Aaron being the mouthpiece, but Moshe, the leader.
It is then time for the implementation of the mission of the original “Operation Desert Storm.” Moshe is to detail to the Jewish people the plan of their exodus. The people in fact do believe that Moshe is to lead them, heads high, out of their enslavement. Moshe is to unabashedly enter the pearly gates (of Pharaoh’s palace) with the elderly sages among the Jewish people and demand, in no uncertain terms, immediate evacuation of the Jews out of Egypt.
Akin to a Nazi despot, Pharaoh is unruffled by Moshe’s sign of strength, courage and miraculous display of turning staff to snake. Indeed, Pharaoh’s next step is a ruthless response to Moshe’s seeming defiance of Pharaoh and his decrees. Pharaoh’s immediate next step is to proverbially turn up the heat in the hell he had already created. ”All Jews are now responsible to find their own materials for the bricks they will build with…Any quota not fulfilled will require a Jewish baby in its place.” What happened?!? Didn’t someone fill Pharaoh in on the script? This is not the expected next step! We were supposed to exit stage left and be on our way to the Promised Land. Imagine the final scene in a movie like “Independence Day” where, after an arousing inspirational speech from the president, the immediate result was utter doom and destruction…it makes for the most anti-climactic ending to a film.
How would we feel? Moshe has been charged with the leadership role, G-d told Moshe, “I’ve got your back.” And then…failure…epic failure! Not only is Pharaoh not impressed with Moshe, he punishes the entire people as a result of it! Perhaps we’d feel that G-d has let us down. We’d been “stabbed in the back.”
And Moshe does respond to G-d. He more or less says to G-d, “Where were you when I needed you?!” It seems, however, from G-d’s response in next week’s portion that Moshe was supposed to see through the initial veil of hardship and difficulty that occurred after he went into Egypt’s highest rank officials. Indeed, the Talmud’s famous, “All beginnings are difficult” can easily be applied to the tremendous task Moshe was charged to perform. Perhaps, in a certain sense, Moshe’s mettle was being tested, how tenacious would he be? What would happen when opposition looked Moshe in the eyes? Would he crumble or would he stay strong? Akin to a statement of famous tennis player, Bjorn Borg, ”My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.” No matter how bleak the situation looked, Moshe was to understand that behind every shrub, every chair, every house, there were allied eyes covering him and his people. Sure, it may not seem like the plan was in action, but once G-d had promised coverage, it would be game over for the Egyptians…just a matter of time.
Our take home this week: Realize that more often than not, those moments of hardship, challenge and difficulty are there as a test. Occasions to try our true character and help us understand what we are capable of enduring and how we will live and react under adversity. Will we crack or will we thrive? Will we yield and throw in the towel or will we endure, struggle and fight until the end. It is at these times, where the gauntlet has been thrown down, that we are given a challenge: Do we sheepishly shy away from the imposing eye of defeat or do we strengthen ourselves and, with unflinching gumption, raise our eyes to stare right back at that ugly beast and show defeat he is no match for us?
Shabbat Shalom