At the beginning of Parshas Va’eira Hashem appears to Moshe for a second time, and instructs him to go lead his people out of Mitzraim. Moshe automatically goes onto the defence, trying to find excuses to get out of the job. He goes back to his favourite excuse that he would not serve as a great leader because of his speech impediment. Moshe uses a” Kal Vachomer” saying: If Bnei Yisroel who would benefit from my message wont listen to me, surely paroh wont listen to me. Furthermore in those days if someone had a speech impediment no individual with any power would listen to what he had to say, it was considered disrespectful for someone with a speech impediment to address an important person. Moshe is saying to Hashem if Bnei Yisroel, who are the slaves of this place, won’t listen to what I say, I won’t even stand a chance of getting paroh to listen to me. Not only will he not consider what I say, he won’t even give me the respect to listen to what I say due to my speech impediment. All the interactions Moshe had with Hashem up to now makes him appear as an extremely hesitant and unconfident person. Only after a long six days of arguing this out, on the condition that his brother Aaron will be his spokesman does he finally agree to accept the role as the leader for bnei yisroel.
The First perek of this parsha leaves me with a bunch of questions. Before we discuss the questions let take a quick look at a few stories we know about Moshe up to this point. There is the famous story of an Egyptian beating a Jew. Moshe is walking by and sees this happening, and without hesitation strikes the Egyptian (some say he said Hashem’s 72 letter name) and kills him point blank, on the spot. From here it seems that Moshe is a completely unhesitant, confident and decisive person. He puts his people’s needs before his own, and genuinely feels and cares over the pain of his brothers. He doesn’t ask anyone else to take care of the matter or attempt to shy away from the situation he steps up to the plate and puts an abrupt end to the injustice being served to the Jew. At the time he was living in Paroh’s comfortable palace, he realized what repercussions he would have to face, but that didn’t alter/corrupt him from doing what was right. Later when Moshe arrives in Midyan he see’s that the local Sheppard’s aren’t allowing Yisro’s daughters to draw water from the well. He immediately comes to their aid. We see through Moshe’s history that he is never afraid to stand up for what he believes. An extremely important character trait that Moshe had before he became Bnei Yisroel’s leader was that he refused to be a bystander. Why is Moshe afraid to be the leader? On the contrary he seems to be a little to aggressive in his decision making; Instead of making excuses why didn’t he immediately accept Hashem’s request to be Bnei Yisroel’s leader? Why didn’t he act confidently like he did with the Egyptian task master?
Based on Moshe’s history, one would have expected Moshe to jump at the opportunity to save the Jews from the hands of Paroh. He had seen the suffering of bnei Yisroel with his own eyes; it caused him to kill the Egyptian task master. And yet, when God offers Moshe the position, Moshe’s initial response is shocking: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should take the Jewish people out of Egypt?” How about Moshe, the aggressive/loving/big brother figure for all klal yisroel?!?!?!?
After a first glance at the posuk Moshe seems to be using his speech impediment as an excuse to not go to Paroh. However if you take a closer look at the parsha it seems that he is more concerned over himself as a public speaking figure. His previous actions (ie killing the Egyptian and scaring off the local Sheppard’s from the well) were all solely dependent on him; it relied on his own actions. Alternatively over here what Hashem is really asking Moshe is to go take an oppressed nation, a tired nation who thinks so low of themselves, and turn them into something great. Although he knows that it’s right and would like to act confidently like he had in the past, he just doesn’t think he would be able to go and inspire these people into being something great. So he therefore attempts to humbly tell Hashem that he isn’t the right man for the job. The job requires a lot of verbal work and Moshe up to this point is a more “hands on” person. He was ready to kill for them, but he didn’t realize he had it in him to give motivational speeches.
This is exactly why Hashem gives him physical signs to show the people in order that they listen to him, this being something that Moshe is used too. The climax of Moshe’s career as a leader can be found at the splitting of the Yam Suf. What was the event of the splitting of the sea? It was quite possibly the most awesome show of force the world has ever known.
On the other hand Moshe’s ultimate downfall as a leader comes from not being able to transition to a leader through speech. After the death of Miryam, the Jews ran out of water. God commands Moshe to take his staff and speak to a rock in front of the Jews so that the rock will give forth water. Moshe and Ahron gather the people. However, instead of speaking to the rock, Moshe strikes it. He reverts to the form of leadership he feels most comfortable with. Unfortunately, that was not what God asks for in this situation and Moshe is held accountable for his actions.
This could be a reason that Moshe wasn’t allowed to go into Eretz Yisroel. When Bnei Yisroel went into Eretz Yisroel they were going to fight many wars, governments were going to be set up, and Hashem’s presence wouldn’t be so obvious to Bnei Yisroel like it had been in the midbar with Moshe, where they were getting mun for everyday. In times like these they would need a leader who could motivate them to nonetheless follow and stay in the ways of Hashem.
This Dvar Torah was made possible with the help of Rabbeim, Chaburot from older talmidim, as well as the seforim from the Beit Midrash here at the Yeshiva.
Student Studying in Yeshivat Hakotel