Moses and His Children

 In our parshah, The Torah states: “These are the descendants of Moses and Aaron.” But lo and behold, the parshah then goes on to only mention Aaron’s children, and not a word about Moses’ children. What can we learn about the fact that the Torah has nothing meaningful to tell us about Moses’ children, except that their names were Eliezer and Gershom?

There are two lessons to be derived from this. The first lesson is that Judaism is a meritocracy, the rule of those who merit to rule by virtue of their talents and high moral and spiritual standards. Apparently, Moses’ children did not make the grade to assume the reigns of leadership. This is in contradiction to the prevailing political norms of the ancient Near East, medieval Europe, and parts of the Islamic world to this day. In ancient Egypt, the son of the pharaoh inherited the reins of power from his father. The same took place in European monarchies in medieval times, and in some Arab countries to this day (in Syria and in Jordan, both rulers took over the reins of power from their daddy). But not so in ancient Israel. Even the first King of Israel, King Saul, was removed from power by the Almighty, by virtue of having failed to adhere to the divine decrees.

The second lesson to be derived from the fact that Moses’ children aren’t mentioned, is that perhaps Moses invested himself so much in his spiritual “career,” that he didn’t spend enough time cultivating the souls of his own children. There are many examples that I could share with you, of renowned world leaders and self-made billionaires, who are estranged from their own children and grandchildren. We live in an age in which all-too-often we experience what philosopher Alain de Botton calls “Status Anxiety.” We feel that our sense of self-worth and self-esteem is utterly contingent upon our social and economic standing. This can create a skewed pathological state of affairs, in which we sanctify the false god of our “career,” and marginalize and under prioritize our sacred vocation as parents and spouses. Let us beware of this danger, and prioritize love over achievement, being over having, and togetherness over self-worship.

Shabbat Shalom and happy holiday of Shavuot,

Rabbi Sessler

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