Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra: Pillar of Faith (Beshallach)

Pillar of Hope by Tomira Muguet
Pillar of Hope by Tomira Muguet

The Torah Text

The evil tribe Amalek attacks the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses goes up a hill, and holds his staff up with his arms. While his arms are raised, the Israelites battle victoriously. When they sag, the Amalekites take the upper hand. As Moses tires, Aaron and Hur come to support each of his arms. Thus, Moses is able to hold his hands steady. Abraham ibn Ezra expands on the meaning of “steady”.

Ibn Ezra’s Teaching

ואמונה דבר עומד וקיים והוא שם דבר וי”א מגזרת ויהי אומן את הדסה. כאילו אומנים הם שישאו ידיו

Exodus 17:12 STEADY. Emunah (steady) is a noun meaning something lasting and permanent. Others say that emunah comes from the same root as the word omen (brought up) in “And he brought up Hadassah” (Esther 2:7). Aaron and Hur were like nursemaids who lifted up his hands. (Translation Strickman and Silver)

Reflections for the Path

The translators Strickman and Silver note that Aaron and Hur have turned Moses’ feebly human hands into something more enduring. They say the “image is of something pillar-like.” To me, this brings up an image of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that have guided and protected the Israelites. Moses demonstrates that a human leader can also exude the pillar-like strength that helps people have hope and faith in their journey forward.

For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.