I know it doesn't sound that terrific, but trust me, it's great! Anyway, one of my favorite scenes in The Matrix has our protagonist, Neo, who may be The One, visiting with an oracle to finally get some answers. And that scene reminds me an awful lot of Moses' first encounter with God in this week's Torah portion. That's right; I just compared Keanu Reeves to Moses, and the Divine encounter at the Burning Bush to a sci-fi movie about evil robots. I love writing a blog!
Alright, let me explain. Early on in the oracle's conversation with Neo, she says to him, 'know thy self,' and explains that no one can tell you who you are or what you're supposed to do, you just have to discover it for yourself. After that, she goes through a series of silly, fake 'rituals' (though at the time we don't know they're fake) and then she says: 'You know what I'm going to tell you, don't you?' And he responds, 'I'm not
The One, am I?' And we, the viewers, spend most of the movie believing he's NOT the savior-to-be-named-later. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say that the reason I love that particular scene with the oracle is that she began with the most important piece of information he needed to hear: 'Know thy self.' In other words, nothing else I can say, or do, or predict, or decree is going to matter; you have to believe in yourself, and YOU have to think you're The One. The difference between greatness and mediocrity is only belief in oneself. That's it. And Moses too has to discover that the hard way.
When God first approaches Moses at the Burning Bush, Moses is terrified. FOUR times Moses tries to get out of the job, but God is relentless; you ARE going back to Egypt!! To give Moses confidence, God demonstrates three miracles that Moses can employ in his dealings with Pharaoh. Moses' staff turns
into a snake (Exodus 4:2-4), his hand becomes diseased and then cured again (v. 6-8), and finally, he pours water on the ground and it turns to blood (v. 9). But to be completely honest, these are all parlor tricks. They're kind of ridiculous. Even when Moses eventually DOES try to use them, they don't really work. The snake trick impresses no one, the water-into-blood is only the first of ten plagues - nine more are needed before Pharaoh eventually relents - and Moses never even tries the weird-scary-hand-thing. So what was all that smoke-and-mirrors actually about?
That's where I see the connection to The Matrix. All that Moses - or Neo - really needed to know was stated in the first line: 'Know thy self.' Early on in the Burning Bush scene, Moses says to God: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?" (Ex. 3:11) And God never really answers him. God's immediate response is: "I will be
with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you." That doesn't really answer Moses' question, does it? God needs Moses to discover his greatness for himself; and that will only come with time. Even today, a lot of people ask why we don't hear God's voice. Why don't we get signs from Heaven? Why don't we see miracles happening, seas splitting, and fiery chariots descending from the sky? Why? Because all that crap is silliness. They're parlor tricks. They don't cut to the heart of what it means to live a life of meaning. How can we be great, and do great, in this world? How can we discover our destiny, and then spend our lives striving to fulfill it? It sounds so simply, but it's the only real message we need to hear AND do: 'Know thy self.'
Photos in this blog post: