Moses was Politically Active

Calling Moses "Harry Potter" is an insult to the Exodus story.

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

Moses was ardently devoted to His commandments

This article is in reponse to Amotz Asa-El's “How to Read the Haggada” Jerusalem Post April 3, 2015.

I take issue with much of his articles:

“Unlike his modern sculptors, our forebears couldn’t see in Moses a real-life legislator, statesman or revolutionary. To them, he led not because of his convictions, but because of God’s command. To them, Moses captured his initially skeptical audience not with charisma but by producing a snake from a stick, a la Harry Potter.”

Look at Baba Bathra 15a, Mr. Asa-El:

“You say that Moses wrote his book and the section of Balaam and Job. This supports the opinion of R. Joshua b. Levi b. Lahma who said that Job was contemporary with Moses  [The proof is that] it is written here [in connection with Job], O [איפו] that my words were written down; Would they were inscribed in a record, (Job 19:23) and it is written elsewhere [in connection with Moses], For how [איפו] 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?” (Exodus 33:16).

Moses was a genius, a magnificent and stirring writer.  Our forebears surely saw in Moses a real-life legislator, statesman and revolutionary.  I offer as one small proof comparing these passages in Job and in Deuteronomy:

Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words I utter! May my discourse come down as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass. For the name of the Lord I proclaim; Give glory to our God! (Deuteronomy 32-1-3).

When I passed through the city gates To take my seat in the square, Young men saw me and hid, Elders rose and stood; Nobles held back their words; They clapped their hands to their mouths. The voices of princes were hushed; Their tongues stuck to their palates. The ear that heard me acclaimed me; The eye that saw, commended me. For I saved the poor man who cried out, The orphan who had none to help him. I received the blessing of the lost; I gladdened the heart of the widow. I clothed myself in righteousness and it robed me; Justice was my cloak and turban. I was eyes to the blind And feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, And I looked into the case of the stranger. I broke the jaws of the wrongdoer, And I wrested prey from his teeth. I thought I would end my days with my family, And be as long-lived as the phoenix. My roots reaching water, And dew lying on my branches; My vigor refreshed, My bow ever new in my hand. Men would listen to me expectantly, And wait for my counsel. After I spoke they had nothing to say; My words were as drops [of dew] upon them. They waited for me as for rain, For the late rain, their mouths open wide. When I smiled at them, they would not believe it; They never expected a sign of my favor. I decided their course and presided over them; I lived like a king among his troops, Like one who consoles mourners (Job 2(:7-25).

There’s no Harry Potter stuff here, only brilliance, stirring oratory, and lessons to be politically active and intense caring about social welfare.

I quote Psalms 112 (1-10)

Hallelujah. Happy is the man who fears the Lord, who is ardently devoted to His commandments. His descendants will be mighty in the land, a blessed generation of upright men. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his beneficence lasts forever. A light shines for the upright in the darkness; he is gracious, compassionate, and beneficent. All goes well with the man who lends generously, who conducts his affairs with equity. He shall never be shaken; the beneficent man will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, he trusts in the Lord. His heart is resolute, he is unafraid; in the end he will see the fall of his foes. He gives freely to the poor; his beneficence lasts forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man shall see it and be vexed; he shall gnash his teeth; his courage shall fail. The desire of the wicked shall come to nothing.

To Moses the focus is always to be ardently devoted to His commandments.  It is false to say Moses was politically passive.  False to portray Moses as succumbing to the view of Mr. Asa-El that  “This reading of history as a continuum of miracles and punishments, rather than a sum of human actions and inactions, left generations of Jews politically passive in the face of their discrimination, libeling and murder.”

Amotz Asa-El writes. “Perhaps it was He who salvaged some Jews when the rest were massacred, but that cannot be assumed, least of all in advance, and it certainly gives no license to be passive in history’s face, as ultra-Orthodoxy is…” is a false reading of Jewish history. Jews were "passive" when they had no means of defending themselves. Israel has passed that stage of misinterpreting history, a major injustice to Holocaust victims as well as our forefathers massacred in pogroms and blood libels,  Mr. Asa-El.