Rabbi Avraham GordimerThe writer is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and the New York Bar.
When Moses is charged by Hashem to speak with Pharaoh and demand that the Jews be set free, Moses’s responses are somewhat surprising:
“And Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and take B’nei Yisroel forth from Egypt?’” “And Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I will come to the Jews and tell them: The God of your forefathers sent me to you; and they will reply to me: What is His Name? – What will I say to them?’” “And Moses replied and said, ‘And behold, they will not believe me and will not heed my voice, for they will say: Hashem did not appear unto you.’” “And Moses said to Hashem, ‘Please, Hashem, I am not a man of words, nor was I yesterday nor the previous day, nor from the time that You spoke unto Your servant, for I am of a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue…Please, Hashem, kindly send him whom you are accustomed to send (rather than me).’” (Shemos 3:11,13; 4:1, 10,13)
Moses’s respectful, repeated demurral of his appointment to lead the Redemption of the Jews from Egyptian slavery, in which Moses seems to invoke a new reason each time in order to be relieved of his charge, is shocking. One would think that Moses would have jumped in enthusiasm at the announcement that the long-awaited Geulah (Redemption) was at hand and would have instantly done whatever it took to effect the Redemption, knowing that all is possible at the hands of the omnipotent God.
Chazal, our Sages, tell us that it took seven days of Hashem coaxing and charging Moses to accept his shlichus (mission) until Moses finally agreed. (V. Rashi on 4:10). It must be noted that along with Moses accepting his charge after attempting for a full week to be exempted from it, he appears to have succeeded in having it significantly modified, as originally, Moses was charged to present the message of the impending Redemption without the use of the special, convincing signs (his hand becoming leprous and then immediately healed, his staff snake turning into a snake, the water turning into blood), Aharon was not going to serve as Moses's interpreter, and so forth.
Why was Moses so extremely resistant to accepting his mission, and why did he seek to have it modified in order for it to appear more doable?
The Meforshim (Rabbinic commentators) explain that with the Geulah (redemption) from Egypt, Hashem ushered in a totally new manifestation of Giluy Shechinah (Divine Revelation), for heretofore in human history, miracles were contained within the natural order, but with the Geulah from Egypt, Hashem would reveal Himself with open miracles and unprecedented communion with mankind. (V. Targum Yonasan b. Uziel, Ramban and others on Shemos 6:3.)
In this vein can Moses's position regarding his appointment be understood, for Moses measured Jewish leadership by the Avos (Patriarchs), who were men of prowess, articulation, wealth and prestige. These qualities were necessary for the Avos to be able to lead and accomplish their mission; although the Avos walked with Hashem and accomplished incredible things due to Hashem's miraculous workings, they needed to be equipped for achievement in a natural way, as open miracles with instant and clear Giluy Shechinah were not part of the normal picture.
Hashem did not yet at the time of the Avos reveal himself and His miracles publicly and outwardly; divine revelation and miracles were conducted through people and events in a natural way, with the people needing to be equipped and the circumstances needing to be ripe for such revelation and miracles. Moses therefore felt very ill-prepared to lead what would be nothing short of a mass, miraculous revolution, as he sensed that he lacked the requisite personal skills and implements thereto, in contrast with the Avos. Moses approached the Geulah at the plane of divine revelation of the Patriarchal period, in which not having the natural means at one's disposal seemed to be an impediment to invoking the miraculous.
Hashem accommodated Moses's needs and modified Moses's charge in consideration of his apprehensions - but He nonetheless did cultivate Moses into a new type of Jewish leader, a leader of the Giluy Shechinah/Geulah period, as the most unique Jewish leader to have ever arisen.
Whereas the beginning of Exodus presents Moses as the conveyor of the word of Hashem, we read later in the Torah that Moses occasionally appears to state and command things that the Torah does not reference as having been specifically instructed by Hashem, but nonetheless were clearly His word and command. Why is this?
The answer is that Moses achieved a level of unique intensity in his communion with Hashem such that Moses could intuit Hashem's command and could at times speak to the Jews as Hashem's emissary without even having been told exactly what to say, as he was so bound to Hashem that his words reflected and became an extension of the will of Hashem.
Only in an era of intense Giluy Shechinah was this possible, as Hashem came so close to man such that man could attach himself to Hashem, if he so merited.
Although no one else ever has or will reach the level of prophecy of Moses, we can still, to this day and at all times, achieve a high level of connection with Hashem.
How is this? Through Torah study.
The Gemara (Berachos 8a) states that Rabbi Chiya bar Ami said in the name of Ula: "From the day that the Beis HaMikdash (the Temple) was destroyed, the Holy One, blessed is He, only has in His world the four amos (cubits) of Halakha." This means that the manifestation of the Shechinah that could be sensed in the Beis HaMikdash and communion with the Divine that occurred there can now only be experienced through Torah study.
By connecting to Hashem by immersion of one's intellect and being in the most holy article He ever gifted to us, we come close to Him and enter His presence.
May we merit to cleave to Hashem through His Torah and thereby experience communion with Him, perpetuating the legacy of Moses for eternity.