To Speak or Not to Speak by Gavriel Metzger


Moshe Rabbeinu was one of the greatest leaders of Bnei Yisrael, if not the greatest leader, of all time.  He led the nation out of Egypt, and was their rock of leadership for forty years in the desert.  However, it is very well known that Moshe had one slight flaw: he was “Aral Sefatayim” (Shemot 6:12), literally “of sealed lips,” meaning that he had some form of speech impediment, possibly a stutter.  In Parshat Shemot, Moshe uses this barrier as an excuse for not going to plead with Pharaoh for Bnei Yisrael’s release.  He says, “Bi Hashem, Lo Ish Devarim Anochi…Ki Chevad Peh Uchvad Lashon Anoci” (4:10), “Please, Hashem, I am not a man of words…for I am heavy of mouth and speech.”  Hashem rejects this argument and sends Moshe anyway, telling Moshe that He will be with him and that Aharon will also contribute in Moshe’s conversation with Pharaoh.  This raises an obvious question: why did Hashem not simply fix this impediment so that Moshe could speak to Pharaoh himself?  After all, Moshe is supposed to be the chosen leader of the people, a job for which speech is extremely important!

The Ramban states that Hashem did not fix Moshe’s flaw because He simply did not choose to, and it was in His plan that it would work out for good in the end.  As this clearly does not explain the underlying motivation, the Ran clarifies that Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted it to be known that He Himself swayed the judgment of Pharaoh and his ministers when Moshe spoke to them.  Moshe could not have done so himself, because his stutter would have prevented him from winning over Pharaoh with speech.  Consequently, the Shechinah later assisted Moshe in overcoming his difficulties when speaking to Pharaoh, just as Hashem had assured.

When Moshe came to Bnei Yisrael with his message even before he went to Pharaoh, the Midrash tells us that the Shechinah spoke for him to the nation.  Why, then, did Moshe, after accepting his role as leader in Va’eira, complain when told again to go to Pharaoh, saying, “Hein Ani Aral Sefatayim, Ve’eich Yishma Eilai Paroh,” “Behold, I have sealed lips, so how shall Pharaoh listen to me” (6:28)?  Hashem, in the form of the Shechina, had just helped him in his previous speaking endeavor!  Rav Yonatan Eibeschutz relates that the Shechina chooses to speak only Hebrew, Lashon Hakodesh.  Talking to Bnei Yisrael was not an issue, but the Shechina was not able to convey Hashem’s message to Pharaoh, who spoke only Egyptian, and did not comprehend Hebrew.  Therefore, Moshe staged a second complaint to in order to be exempt from addressing Pharaoh.  Ultimately, however, we all know that he was indeed sent to Pharaoh, which started a process culminating with Yetziat Mitzrayim.  Just as Hashem’s immediate goal of making His own role clear was fulfilled, His larger goal of Yetziat Mitzrayim also came about through Moshe’s actions.

Moshe Rabbeinu’s experiences reiterate the important concept that all things, no matter what their initial appearance is, will contribute to a master plan.  We also see that despite all complaints and excuses, Hashem’s hand always makes sure that that master plan is fulfilled.  Have a Chag Kasher Vesameach.

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