A STORY OF MOSES
So Great A Spirit! ~ Chapters VI & VII
The toll of labour the King demanded was beyond the strength of men. The amount of stone he demanded meant that the men must work through the heat of the day, although the number of workers had been increased by those who had left the easier tasks in their land of Goshen to work here on the granite, where at least justice and kindness made less harsh the hardness of the labour.
ART : ‘Israelites as Slaves in Egypt’ by WELS
The voice of a task-master called the men to their labours. Moses went to see the place where the bones of his parents had been laid. Here there were no places of embalmment, only fissures in the rocks which concealed the bodies of the dead. The fissures were sealed with wrought stones to guard the dead from beast and bird alike. I followed my brother on that lonely journey, thinking as I did so of my father ~ the terrible days of mourning and the sorrowful journey to the tomb. It is better, I thought, once the soul has fled, to house the body in a tomb such as this on the bare hillside which is kissed by the light of the sun and the moon.
I followed Moses, for my legs were shorter than his, and his staff aided him on the upward climb. So it was that I did not see what caused him to falter in his climbing. I hastened my pace when I saw him sink to his knees. I thought the heat of the sun had been too much for him after the travelling on the river. Or maybe a serpent had twined itself around his limbs. I tried to hasten my pace on the steep hillside, but illness and the soft living at the court had taken all strength from my legs. Within distance of him I had to pause. An unseen force seemed to press against my chest, making it that I could go no further!
ART : ‘Angel of Splendour’ ~ Jean Deville
There before me on the bare hillside was a thing so strange that I remember it still, though the sands of passing time have erased many other things from my memory. It was as if the light of the sun had gathered into a great glowing ball, which seemed to blaze in and around the little tree growing near the cave wherein rested the bodies of Moses’ dead parents.
I was afraid. Into my mind came the remembrance of my dreams in which fire broke forth from the bowels of the earth. Was fire forcing itself out of some hidden fissure in the rock? Was my brother overcome by the smoke and heat of it? The terror I felt in the dream seized me now. I called to him, “Moses!” Then, as the habit of the mind is to return to things in moments of fear, I heard my voice shouting again the old name of “Ra-mu-ses! Ra-mu-ses!” He heard me not. His body remained fixed with hands clasping firmly the upraised staff on which the golden knob seemed to burn like fire in the curious radiance. The sound of the old name that had burst from my throat in my agony of fearfulness brought to me the remembrance of the Lords of Light. I knew that some great spirit must be in that blazing, fiery light. I bowed my head. I remembered that the old priest had said long ago that the Lords of Light had a special work for Moses to do. Yet was I fearful for my brother lest such a great light should harm him.
How long stayed we so? This I do not remember. As characters become erased from the ancient papyrus by the dust of years, so have some of my memories been removed by the passing of years. As the more important happenings in a king’s life are carved on pillars of stone, so some of the events in my life are engraved on my memory, as though by a sculptor’s chisel.
I recall how it was with Moses when the fiery light died away and the mysterious force no longer pressed against me. I went to him. His hands seemed no longer strong enough to hold the staff that was his treasure. His great body bowed like that of an old man weary with many years. When I spoke to him, he looked at me with eyes wide open. Yet he did not see me nor hear the words I spoke. I touched him, but his legs had no strength in them. Instead of rising he fell forward on his face.
ART : ‘Moses and Burning Bush’ ~ Moshe Gabbay, Painter
The Burning Bush in the background with Moses bowing into the sacred aura, his shoes aside, having left materialism, (17 sheep). Clouds of Glory hover above. The Bush: The Burning Bush was a small tree revealed to Moses. Although its precise nature is a mystery, the Rabbis described it as being “the lowliest plant on earth”. It symbolises Israel being . . .
Then was I afraid. The sight of the man, who had given me so much strength and comfort lying alone and helpless in this desolate place was very pitiful. Once I had seen a mighty tree blown down by a storm wind, with its branches lying in the dust, its roots exposed to the gaze of men. So was Moses now, a great tree cast down in his strength.
I turned him onto his back and felt his hands. Though the sun was high in the heavens they were cold. From the distant years of my youth came the remembrance of the temple teaching and the thought of the way in which the soul can leave the body in sleep or trance, and how cold the body would be in such states. So I began to stroke his limbs. I placed my hands on his heart and head to impart some magnetism that might enable his soul to regain its hold on the body that lay so still, unmoving beside the little tree whose small leaves were untouched and unmarked by the splendour that had been around it. As I tended him I was like a woman in my distress. I was near to tears. I knew that this great man held my heart in the palm of his hand. The stream of my life was contained in his. If he died then most surely would I cease to live. It is a strange thing but in that moment I knew that only three great streams of love had flowed through my heart. One was for my beloved princess, one for my father and the other for Moses. My affection for Ani, my wife, and for my children, were but as the shallow streams which branch from the river.
Joy flowed into my heart when Moses looked at me with understanding in his eyes. Drawing up his legs, he clasped his staff and sat beside me, looking across the river to the golden distances shimmering in the heat of the sun. When he spoke it was with words halted by deep sighs, as if they were carved into his soul by fire, and the fire and the smoke had to come forth together.
“So great a spirit,” he said, “so wonderful a radiance have I never seen in all my years of seeing the spirits of the dead. The Lord of Josef, Jacob and Abraham appeared to me, together with the spirit of him who was my father and her who was my mother.” Silent was he so long that I watched camels, like small flies in the distance, slowly move into my sight and gradually disappear into the shimmering heat of that distant place. “The Lord spoke to me,” said Moses. “The Lord said to me: ‘Take this people out of Egypt. Take them out of the place of bondage.’ And I said to the Lord: “Where can I take such a people? I am a man without a land myself. I have no place. I dwell in the tents of my wife’s father. I cannot take forth these people, for they will surely die.”
ART : Goldsmiths at Work
We were silent as we thought about this thing. I had counted with him the numbers of the people when as youths we had travelled in the land. I knew that twelve houses were there, each with their women, children and grandchildren. The numbers had been more than a hundred-hundred. Where could so great a people find food and water when all was wilderness, except our own land watered and fed by the Nile river?
Moses spoke again. “The Lord said to me, ‘Go forth, and I will lead you to a pleasant land. Not to the land of Midian, but to the land of Canaan.’ And I said: “But I know not the way. The wilderness is vast and the people have no camels.”
I thought upon this. Canaan was a word I had heard, just as Assyria, Chaldea and Persia. But such places were as unknown to me, and to Moses, as were the stars in the heavens.
Continued Moses: “But the Lord said, ‘Go to Pharaoh and tell him that I wish you to lead forth this people, and surely will I also lead you in the wilderness.’ Then said I: “But the people will not listen to me. I have not the tongue with which to speak the Israelite words for I was raised in the court of Egypt.” Said then the Lord to me: ‘Aaron shall speak. He speaks the tongue of the people. You will have the words for Pharaoh, for you are of Egypt. My spirit will be upon you both until this thing be done’.
So great a thing as this needed much thought. We sat with our heads covered as the hours passed. The light of Ra began to grow clear in the distant sky as I thought of the labour done by the Israelites and of the many who were servants to my people. I knew that Pharaoh would not let them go. To let the peoples of Israel pass from the land would mean that the Egyptians would have to toil in the heat of the day. Then my heart was lightened as I thought: “It will be enough that Moses asks, as the great Lord has said. When Pharaoh says to him, ‘No’, then can my brother be at peace. Even such a great Lord of Light does not know the heart of all men.”
Moses was the first man to approach the King. Once again he stood before the King’s chair. His manhood made all other men appear as children’s toys. By the gleam in the eye of the King’s men, I knew that they hated him already.
“Let now your servant take the men of the tribes of Israel into the wilderness that they may worship and sacrifice to the God of their fathers,” begged Moses. “Let me take the headmen and their sons to make an altar, and a sacrifice to their God. Surely this would be a good thing. Pharaoh will be favoured by the God of Israel as well as by the Gods of Egypt. It is not good to have a godless people in the land.”
ART : Scribe & Slaves
The King’s men looked at Moses. Then spoke they to Pharaoh. My son whispered to me that they were intent upon the building of a new dam and would have all the men remain to work in the making of it.
“No,” the King answered. “You may not take the men into the wilderness. Let them worship the gods of the land that has fed them. Let them praise the gods who gave their forefathers corn when they were hungry, and who now provides their children with food when the Nile rises and falls.”
“Our God has spoken!” Moses’ voice rang out like a trumpet upon the scented air. But I was afraid, for I knew by the King’s lips that he was angry. I feared lest he signalled to one of the guards to thrust my brother near to the sleeping beast.
ART : Slaves
“Let your God then speak,” the King replied. “And let your God tell his people where to find straw for their bricks. Now it shall be that they will go and gather the straw, as well as fashion the bricks, and all other things as I have commanded.”
He flicked the many-thonged whip he held in his hand. Moses knew he must go. With slow steps and proud head did he return to the place beside Aaron while the scribes around me wrote Pharaoh’s command. I noticed that the hand of Mani, my son, trembled. He knew that this was a cruel burden to lay upon the Hebrew workers. As he loved Moses so did he feel a gentleness in his heart for the people. My soul was sad. I saw that my son was going to wear as heavy a yoke, as I had done in the years I had passed in silent obedience to the King.
ART : Tutankhamun’s Chair (Left) & Ancient Egyptian wall painting depicting Anubis (Right)