Monday, March 18, 2013

Moses on Trial

Every year my synagogue stages an interesting mock trial of biblical figures for crimes committed (or not, depending how you view the status of Biblical texts) in the course of their lives, as recorded in the Torah.
This year, it was Moses who was being tried for his murder of an Egyptian task master and subsequent flight out of Egypt.
The lawyers and judges were real enough. In fact, Moses had a Ace in the hole. His defense lawyer was the famous expert in Constitutional Law, Irwin Chemerinsky, who happens to belong to my synagogue.
The Prosecution was no slouch either, and neither was the judge. All did their jobs efficiently and well, making arguments that were clear and easy to understand and even amusing.The prosecutor, Laurie Levinson, even did a Power Point to accent her points.
It was a privilege to be there to see how a courtroom is supposed to work, which was quite unlike the mockery of justice I recently witnessed when I joined my friend in the courtroom as she filed for an extension of a restraining order. And that was a real case. This was not. Ironies.
As I sat in the sanctuary pondering whether this was justifiable homicide, by the California definition of the term that had been offered (and asking myself what law should serve as the measure for this case anyhow), I realized that this issue was really beside the point.
Moses had his turning point in the moment he responded to the beating of his kinsman. Whether he had merely spoken out or, as he chose to do, outright killed the taskmaster, his life would have been forfeit by Egyptian law.
Like a fugitive slave, he had decided to drop the act and taken on his destiny as leader to a bunch of whiny former slaves who loved their chains more than they realized.
Since there were no courts or juries or jails at that time, and really not until quite late  in human history, he had no choice but to run. He had become, defacto, one of the slaves he sought to aid.
And where would we all be if he had decided to stay in Egypt?

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