Finding the Courage ~ The Week's End (January 20, 2023)
Jan 20th 2023

Dear Friends,

In this week’s parashah, God asked Moshe to go to Pharaoh and try again to demand that Israel be freed. Even though Pharaoh did not budge the first time Moshe went to see him, God doesn’t give up on Moshe.

In a fit of frustration Moshe said to God: “If the Israelites do not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, I am aral s’fatayim—a man of uncircumcised of lips.” (Exodus 6: 12) Moses assumed that the failure of his mission to free Israel must have had something to do with the quality of his speech. He didn’t feel like a good spokesman. Nobody listens to him and he was “aral s’fatayim”. This is not the first time that Moshe complained about his speech difficulties. When God first asked Moshe to become the leader of the Israelites and guide them out of Egypt, Moshe said: “I am not a man of words. . . I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

What is interesting here is that we, the students of Torah, know that Moshe is actually quite eloquent. He uses sophisticated language when he later petitions God on behalf of the people when they go astray or complain. So what is going on here?

Rashi asserts that the Hebrew word “aral”, of aral s’fatayim means “blocked” or “obstructed”. Moshe did not have a physical blemish, but a psychological one. He did not have a stutter, instead he had an obstruction of the mind and heart. Moshe’s main issue was that  he felt unworthy of the responsibilities God asked him to perform. Moshe felt that his words carried no weight. He felt that since his tongue and lips did not work properly,  his speech was useless. Rashi believed that Moshe needed to overcome an internal psychological barrier.

Even though Moshe was chosen directly by God to lead the people, that was not enough for Moshe to overcome his inner fears that stood in his way.  Moshe did not  need physical therapy for his lips. He needed to try again.

It’s a lesson we can all learn. Initial failure is not a template for eternity, unless we allow it to be. If at first we don’t succeed, we should try again. Inner feelings of unworthiness can feel like a blemish or an imperfection. It can be a spiritual barrier or a psychological barrier. But it can be overcome- by action, by speaking out again and again till one finds one’s voice.

We learn from this text the  importance of  finding the courage to respond to life’s demands, even when we feel unworthy.

Shabbat shalom,