Don’t we all start out with optimistic plans? We are going to accomplish great things, be great spouses and parents, build our businesses and ever so much more. Yet, somehow, we sometimes find ourselves still single, still yelling at our kids, still working at a dead-end job struggling to make ends meet. We haven’t made the impact we hoped to on our communities, family or friends. Perhaps a Hebrew word can move us back on track.
Just before Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, God threatens Moses for neglecting to circumcise his son. God would have terminated Moses’ career, had Moses’ wife, Tziporah, not intervened. (Exodus 4:24-26) What is going on?
We get a clue from the language used in and around this event:
…the Lord met him (Moses)
… (Aaron) go into the desert to meet Moses…
While there are a number of Hebrew words throughout the Bible that translate in English as, “meet,” the specific root word used here is P-G-SH. One of the tools for understanding Scripture is to note when a Hebrew word is rarely used. In those cases, we should look for similarities in the unusual appearances. P-G-SH appears only four times in the Five Books of Moses. We see it twice in our instance in Exodus and twice while Jacob is on his way to meet his brother Esau.
…when Esau my brother meets you…
…what did you intend by that whole camp that I met…
פ ג ש
SH ← G ← P
Thus the word P-G-SH (meet) appears in only two stories in the Torah, both of which involve a man (Jacob/Moses) on a mission, traveling with his entire family, leaving his father-in-law (Lavan/Yitro). In the midst of the journey, each man encounters a Divine being who presents a mortal threat. (In Jacob’s case, he meets the angel with whom he wrestles, Genesis 32:25-33)
Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that Jacob did not leave Lavan’s house as promptly as he should have, to some degree from fear at confronting the terrifying Esau. Similarly, Moses, on his way to confront a frightening Pharaoh, made an unnecessary stop at a hotel. (Exodus 4:24) Even though God had promised His protection, both men delayed approaching their destiny partially out of fear of a scary personality. In each case, they end up in a life-threatening situation. The lesson to us is clear: Despite our fears, avoiding our life purpose and destiny is more dangerous than meeting it head on.
You or I may not be on the level of Jacob or Moses. God may speak to us more subtly and our missions may be on a smaller scale. Yet each and every one of us has a purpose in life, the reason for which God put us on this earth. Our path to that achievement has many milestones, each a little challenge on its own. Invariably, we face formidable challenges on our road to accomplishment. Intimidating people or frightening circumstances often stand in our way, telling us we are foolish for following our path or even threatening us if we continue to move forward. The intimidation may even come from inside ourselves!
The accounts of Jacob and Moses remind us that when we have a mission to do, we should unhesitatingly race past all obstacles to do it. Like all else in Scripture, the details of the stories and the specific words used serve as blueprints for enhancing our lives, encouraging us to courageously meet our own destinies.
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adapted and reprinted from March 2013