A Man stands in a boulder and scrub-grass strewn desert watching sheep.
He is an unlikely shepherd; a tall, handsome Man of about thirty, obviously brought up in luxury and not used to this kind of life. The other shepherds his age, with their weather beaten faces and toothless grins, could easily pass for the man’s grandfather.
The man stands and watches the sheep. For the hundredth time that morning, the Man raises his eyes to the South looking for a telltale plume of dust – the mark of an approaching chariot. “Soon they will send someone to fetch me back. They can’t stay angry at me forever,” he tells himself, “I will be raised back to my exalted place. I’m too important to them. They can’t live without me.”
The sun rises and sets. The wind, which never stops blowing, tans the Man’s skin. A year goes by. Then another. No emissary arrives. The Man suffers blisters and hailstorms, failures and humiliations. All his sheep die or are hobbled by disease. His body aches from the unaccustomed work.
His mood turns black. A darkness descends on his soul. “What happened to my Life?” he fumes, glaring at the wretched sheep, “How did my plans become so completely detailed? I was born to be a Great Leader, a Legend in my Own Time. Then I lose my temper for one minute and everything is gone. Pff. Like that. And now this.”
More years pass. Now they are counted in decades.
Time and the Elements work on the tiny desert town with its poor tents and laughable oasis. The other shepherds grow feeble and pass on. Their children take their place next to the Man and in turn become old before their time.
Only the Man remains unbent. His eyes are clear and his hands are stronger than ever. He raises a family – two fine boys – and unconsciously becomes an excellent minder and healer of sheep.
“He is too bitter for Death to take,” say the other shepherds, spitting into the dust. A Man of Eighty Years is nearly unheard of in their land.
Outwardly, the years have left the Man’s body untouched. But patiently, cunningly, they have winnowed away at his soul. Like fine sand born by the wind that carves monuments out of mountains, the years have smoothed away the rough spots – the anger, the pride, the hurt, the egotistical dreams – and have left behind only the essential; humility, kindness and especially patience. A patience so deep and clear that it is noticed up On High by the One who Watches All.
One day, a tiny lamb, a mere speck of wool and flesh, goes missing.
The Man takes up his wooden staff, ties up the hem of his rough homespun cloak and goes in search of it. The other shepherds laugh and spit. They are used to this ageless giant and think him a simpleminded fool. “He will tire himself out in the Wilderness going after a useless lamb,” they sneer, “For the sake of a single lamb he will meet his death.”
The Man tracks the lamb over boulders, across wadis and through fields of thorn and rock. He clambers up sheer cliffs and across blazing expanse of sand like fire on his feet. For three days and three days, he walks, seeking out the tiny creature.
On the third day he finds the lamb, trembling in the shade of a scraggly bush. Without a word, the Man coaxes the lamb towards him. Tenderly, the Man tenderly raises the lamb to his breast, gives it a drink of water. From his own hand he feeds the lamb, then hoists the baby onto his shoulders for the long walk home.
The Man raises his eyes, still so bright and clear after all these years, and sees that the same bush under which the lamb took shelter is aflame.
Aflame but not burning.
The Man is eighty years old. Fifty years have passed since he cursed himself and the world for denying him his Great Destiny. His Fame and Renown. Fifty long years of letting go and listening in until he craves nothing for himself.
It is a clear, bright day in the desert. There is a Man, a Lamb and a Burning Bush.
And a Soft, Still Voice telling the Man that his Destiny has finally arrived.
Moses was raised in the House of Pharoah as the adopted son of the Pharoah’s daughter. When Moses was a young man he saw an Egyptian Overseer beating a Hebrew slave and killed the Overseer in a fit of rage. Moses became a fugitive in the desert of Median where he married his wife Tziporah and raised two sons. According to the Torah, Moses was eighty years old at the time of the Exodus. He was taken up by God at the age of a hundred and twenty, his eyesight undimmed and his strength undiminished. Extra-biblical stories about Moses (from the body of oral and written literature called Midrash) abound in the thousands.