Who Gives Humans Speech ~ The Week's End (January 13, 2023)
Jan 12th 2023

Moses eyes the Burning Bush and approaches it. God charges him with going to Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery. Miracle after miracle occurs, and what is Moses’ initial response?

“Please, O my Lord, I have never been a man of words—kabed peh u’khvad lashon Anokhi—I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Ex. 4:10)

Did Moses have a speech impediment? That’s certainly how Rashi (11th Century France) understands the text. He translates “slow of speech” as balbus, the Old French for “stammer.”

God responds, “Who gives humans speech? Who makes them dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, A-donai? Now go, and I will be with you as you speak and will instruct you what to say.” (Ex. 4:11-12)

Amazing! God understood that even though Moses had difficulty speaking, he was the best messenger for God’s message. And he did not necessarily have to deliver it himself. God sent Aaron to be his spokesperson. God sent miracles to emphasize the message. And God infused Moses with God’s presence guiding him along the way. What matters most is the message not the means of communication.

No wonder stutterers and others with disabilities hold this verse up as a reminder to all of us of the unique ability, possibility and contribution each of us has! 

As we prepare for Shabbat and reflect on this teaching of Torah, consider this poem "Beatitudes for Disabled People" by Marjorie Chappell.

Blessed are you who take the time to listen to defective speech,
for you help us to know that if we persevere, we can be understood.

Blessed are you who walk with us in public places and ignore the stares of strangers,
for in your companionship we find havens of relaxation.

Blessed are you that never bids us “hurry up” and more blessed are you that do not snatch our tasks from our hands to do them for us,
for often we need time rather than help.

Blessed are you who stand beside us as we enter new ventures,
for our failures will be outweighed by times we surprise ourselves and you.

Blessed are you who ask for our help,
for our greatest need is to be needed.

Blessed are you when you by all these things assure us that the thing that makes us individuals is not our peculiar muscles,
nor our wounded nervous system,
but is the God-given self that no infirmity can confine.

Shabbat shalom.