Though he had work to do Moshe couldn’t help but spend hours in that cave. It never felt long enough, but the hot sun had moved from the top of the sky on down toward the horizon every evening when he emerged.
Tziporah was beginning to wonder where he was spending all of those hours; prior to that particular week Moshe had been home well before evening every day. She knew that her husband had a past that he never really spoke about. She knew that he had come north from the city, but she didn’t know why. She was beginning to suspect that all these late days had something to do with this unspoken of past. Still, Tziporah said nothing.
The place spoke to him. He felt alone there, but it was not loneliness that he felt. It was a feeling a peace. His heart raced each time he approached the light, and as he entered the small space it slowed to a steady, almost Zen, pace.
The first time he had ventured inside Moshe stared at the fire a tense excitement wrapped itself around his gut. He felt as if his body might release everything from within, but it did not.
Today had been Moshe’s day off, but he left his family and slowly walked down to the cave without being totally sure that that was where he was going. He usually felt liberated on his days off from work, but sitting at home was only making him anxious. So he walked.
After stopping to drink from a familiar well Moshe reached the cave. His cells stood on edge as if each atom that made him up were staring together at the flame. Neither his family nor his community mattered there. The damp cave held only Moshe, his shoes at the cave entrance, and the plant that burned with no end in sight.
As his heartbeat began to slow, Moshe closed his eyes to watch the shadow of the light dance on the inside of his eyelids. He thought about Yitro, his wife’s father, and Tziporah. He guessed that they were wondering where he was spending all his time. It only excited him more. It was easy to forget that they knew nothing of his past, partially because he knew little of where he actually came from, but mostly because he was a fugitive.
If there was one thing that Moshe cherished in his life in the North, it was his freedom. He had experienced the shackles of city life. It was not for him. He quite enjoyed the nomadic lifestyle, moving often, and the dry desert air. It calmed him after an adolescence spent indoors. All images of his future were set in the open desert. He could not imagine anything else. Here he felt free, but something had shifted in his brain this week.
Moshe was still relatively young compared to his father-in-law. He loved his family, but somehow felt that he had moved from one overbearing life to another. Perhaps it was his youth? Perhaps he would outgrow this feeling? Moshe’s freedom was incomplete, even if he and his family were free.
The life that he had set up with his family was an escape in many ways. Most of all it was an escape from what he had done. Once upon a time, Moshe had been a murderer. Today, as he contemplated this wonder of nature before him, he remembered that fact and knew that it was unchangeable. It remained true. Moshe was a father, husband, and murderer.
The motion in the fire agitated Moshe. He knew that he had to do something that would leave him with very little time for himself. Pissing would have to be scheduled in to his days from here on. Perhaps this would be the last time that he would have to sit alone and feel himself in a space like this. Tomorrow Moshe would go back to where had committed murder, and commit ten times the crime. Tomorrow Moshe, who lived comfortably with his family, would have to figure out what collective freedom meant in practicality.
Moshe’s mind wandered. Freedom and justice were not particularly original concepts. They are the roots of collective redemption. How they could be delivered was the core issue at hand in that flickering cave on that weekend afternoon.
Deliverance might come in the form of a society founded on law and order, he thought. Still, isn’t the responsibility of freedom as heavy a weight as these people are already carrying in bondage? The irony of a fugitive such as himself delivering law and order was not lost on Moshe. At the end of the day, he was just a guy in a cave with a few thoughts and a strange fire.
Moshe - Part 2: Rage
Moshe sat on the rock. He looked down at his dust covered feet. He was alone. The rock that he now sat on had, moments before, been the object of an uncontrollable rage. Now all Moshe felt was regret. He felt it in his stomach, and it made him feel dizzy.
Moshe had climbed up the hillside to a spot that he was sure he knew. He was certain that there was a natural spring, but apparently this wasn’t it. He had promised that he would deliver water, but he couldn’t. The rest of them were to walk on to the next town, and they needed water. Swelling with rage, Moshe took up arms against the rock, but of course the battle was lost before it had begun. Moshe’s old bones the angry man to take a load off, and so he did.
This was the end of his journey. He told his friend, Joshua how to get to where they were going and Joshua nodded, but asked Moshe to continue with them. Moshe refused, but now, as he looked down on the crowd of former slaves and their children marching away from him, he wondered if even one of them had glanced up the hill to see where their former guide had laid down to rest.
He was certain that not one of them had looked back, and it made him sad and full of self-pity. It had been many years since the young man had gone from that cave down to the capital to convince the working people to leave with him for a land that promised to be flowing with all things good. Now, as he looked upon them and looked back at his life, he wondered if he had made righteous choices.
The old man had the same self doubt that his younger self had displayed when he first went back to the scene of his murderous crime. He had demanded that his early protégé, Aharon speak on his behalf. He knew the words that he wanted to convey, but he did not know if he could convey them. Perhaps it was just that he didn't speak the same language as his people. After all, they came from different places. So he dictated, and Aharon spoke.
Moshe felt self doubt that often manifested in rage. It was a rage that he could only sometimes control. Once when he had returned from a period of quiet self-reflection and contemplation to the bottom of the hill and seen the community on fire, he had lashed out, becoming a killer for the second time in his life.
Recently, Moshe wondered if he had been cursed with the knowledge that civilization was a construct. Someone had invented slavery, and Moshe had invented redemption.
For a moment, Moshe felt that his life had meant something. That moment was gone. He wondered what his life would have been like had he not killed that man so long ago. He wondered what he might have become. He wondered if he would have been happier as a blind man, never wondering where his next meal was coming from.
His mind wandered from those larger questions back to the silliness that had overcome him when he had struck this rock. He was angry that the rock was the way it was. He was angry at its nature. Perhaps that was the rage that he had felt all along. Perhaps that was what compelled him to kill that man and all those others. Perhaps it was their nature. Perhaps it was the nature of humanity that led him to believe that he could create better rules for beings with such a violent nature, like his own.
Moshe knew that his life was over. He wondered what the future held for those slaves down there. He wondered if they would actually succeed in following the rules that he had set out. He wondered if a better society was actually within reach or if they would slide into comfort and recreate the life that they had known in the south, only this time with them on the top rung of the ladder.
He sat at the top of that hill and wondered if anyone would read the memoir that he had left with the group. All he could do at that point was hope.
Moshe, at the end of his life, did not know the answer, but he lay down and speculated as his tribe left his scope of sight.