The past year has been filled with milestones, blessings, long “to do” lists on my Google drive, and many opportunities for reflection. Over the course of the year my husband and I have purchased, renovated and moved into a new home, had our third child, stepped up in our professional careers and communal involvement, and are now weeks away from celebrating our eldest’s Bat-Mitzvah. The age differential of our children and the spectrum of their experiences has been front and center in my mind as I look at our growing family and guide its development. Watching my almost-twelve-year-old-daughter wake up in the middle of the night to bring us our crying baby when we are too tired to hear him, I am struck with wonder at how fast the time has passed, and how seamlessly we have moved from one stage to the next, amassing thoughts, ideas, adventures and experiences to build and create what is now our life. It is one that at times feels simultaneously chaotic and creative, messy and meaningful, exhausting and exhilarating. It is filled with deeply cherished moments and opportunities for love, engaging ideas and spiritual striving. While up close things may often look messy, with art projects and backpacks flying across the living room and remnants of flour from baking challah covering the iPad used for homework left out on the table, from a distance things seem to be falling into place.
As I look to this week’s Parsha, Parshat Shemot, I am struck by a similar pace and movement in the life of our leader, Moshe. In this one Parsha, Moshe is born, grows up in the palace, kills a man, runs away, marries, has two kids, finds his calling in life, returns to Egypt and begins the process of liberating the Jewish people. The tempo is quick, and the intensity palpable. Things happen fast, and unless you stop to reflect on where you come from and where you are going, things move by you in a series of isolated events. But with time, tranquility and moments of solitude, those isolated events cohere into a deliberately crafted life.
I spent much time this week in front of a newly uncovered and re-engineered fireplace which had been covered up and buried in the walls of our home for more than sixty years. Our baby is mesmerized by the fire, and so, when I can, I will feed him there with my big kids next to us, quietly gazing into it until all that is left are the glowing embers. Once again, looking at the life of our leader, it is no coincidence that it is in the fire that God finds Moshe and Moshe finds God. Moshe needs the break from routine, the stepping out of reality into the world of the miraculous to recognize the potential that he carries within. The fire provides that opportunity. Like Moshe, we too need the break from reality, the moments of solitude, the peace and tranquility and the glow of the fire to recognize what we are capable of accomplishing.