Posts by Rabbi Mara Young

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tongue-tied (Mishpakha Shabbat Torah reading)

Exodus 6:10-13

The Eternal spoke to Moses saying,

“Go tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to send out the Israelites from his land.” But Moses appealed to the Eternal saying, “The Israelites will not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh listen to me; and all the moreso, I’m a man of who gets tongue-tied!” So the Eternal spoke to both Moses and Aaron in regard to the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, instructing them to take out the Israelites from the land of Egypt.

This isn’t the first time God has made this request of Moses. The first time God told Moses to speak up to Pharaoh, Pharaoh retaliated by increasing the difficulty of the Israelite slaves’ workload. All the Israelite support Moses had vanished as his rebel rousing did nothing but make their lives harder.

So this is Act Two. God comes back to Moses, tells him to go to Pharaoh. But Moses isn’t so sure this time. He offers three excuses: my people won’t listen, Pharaoh won’t listen, and with all this against me, I’m tongue-tied.

Moses has raised his communication concerns before. What does it mean that he gets tongue-tied? The text is unclear: it can mean that he had a speech impediment, or that he wasn’t a charismatic orator. Either way, think of the stress he was under. He was one man against the world. Whether it was because his speech was unclear or his message just wasn’t persuasive enough, Moses and his intentions were misunderstood.

It makes me think of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon:

Calvin, like Moses, is frustrated.
No one gets his imagination. No one gets the vision he has of a more beautiful world.

Except Hobbes. Hobbes gets him. Hobbes is his partner in prophecy.

And that’s where Aaron comes in. In the portion I just read, Moses doubts himself and his effectiveness. So God comes back and commands both Moses and Aaron to go to the Israelites and Pharaoh. Maybe Aaron was a better speaker. Or maybe just having him there gave Moses the confidence he needed. Either way, with Aaron’s presence, the issue of being tongue-tied disappears from the text.

May we all learn to be the Aaron to someone’s Moses. Let’s partner to find the potential within each human being and take the time to understand what might have been lost in translation.

Kein yhi ratzon.

No comments:

Post a Comment