25 Jan 2017 Parshas Va’eira: The Right Man for the Job
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Va’eira, the Torah tells us of Pharaoh’s refusal to set the Israelites slaves free. As a punishment for this refusal, Pharaoh and his country, his advisors and citizens, meet the beginning of the end with the first of ten plagues, Makkas Dam – the Plague of Blood. All the waters of Egypt, from the mighty Nile River to pools of standing water, turn to blood.
From the Plague of Blood, the Torah moves on and tells us of plagues #2-7: Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils and Hail. Egypt is on the way to utter destruction through the mighty Hand of Hashem and His messenger, Moshe Rabbeinu.
And yet, when we first meet our first and greatest leader, Moshe, at the burning bush in last week’s parsha, and then again in the beginning of this week’s parsha, we are repeatedly told of his speech impediment.
And Moshe said to Hashem, please my G-d. I am not a man of words, not from yesterday nor from the day before yesterday, nor from the time You have spoke to Your servant – כִּי כְבַד-פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן, אָנֹכִי – for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue (4:10).
And Moshe spoke before Hashem saying: Behold, the children of Israel did not listen to me. How then will Pharaoh listen to me? וַאֲנִי עֲרַל שְׂפָתָיִם and I am of closed lips (6:12).
And, yet, Hashem, Who has chosen Moshe for this monumental, nation-altering, destiny-changing task, knows that Moshe is the right man for the job.
How can it be that Hashem believes in Moshe – from the moment the house was filled with light when he was born (see Shemos 2:2 with Rashi there) – yet Moshe, on some level, does not believe in himself?
Perhaps the Torah is teaching us a powerful mussar has’kel.
We often strive to see the good in those around us, viewing the world, and others – be it friends, family, neighbors, community members – with an ayin tova, a “good eye.” As the children of Hashem, we strive to focus on the positive, to see each member of Am Yisrael as crucial, as important, as necessary to the health and survival of our people!
When we see the good in others, we are united, and when we are united, we are עם אחד – one nation, עם ה׳ – with Hashem.
It behooves us to know what our enemies know: that despite our differences, we are all part of עם ה׳ – the nation of Hashem.
Rav Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “When we are faced with a problem regarding the defense of Jewish rights in the non-Jewish world, all groups and movements must be united. There may not be any division in this area, because any friction in the Jewish camp may be disastrous for the entire people. In the crematoria, the ashes of the chassidim and pious Jews were put together with the ashes of the radicals and the atheists. And we all must fight the enemy, who does not differentiate between those who believe in G-d and those who reject Him.”
However, though we strive to see the good in others, at times we forget to see the good, the beauty, the strengths and gifts within our very own selves.
We think that there are too many weaknesses within, too many impediments holding us back, not enough courage to get the job(s) done.
Aharon is older than me – send him! The people will not listen to me – why should I bother going!? I am not a man of words or speech, nor am I a powerful orator who should stand before kings. How then will Pharaoh listen to me; וַאֲנִי עֲרַל שְׂפָתָיִם and I am of closed lips?
Surely there is someone better, more competent, more qualified to accomplish this task.
At different times in life, we are faced with such quandaries and perhaps some measure of self-doubt… And yet, many years ago, I read a quote that made a lasting impression on me: Within every person there are strengths he does not know he has until he is called upon to use them.
Despite our own “blocked lips,” despite all the moments of self-doubt that stand in our way, despite the voice of the yetzer ha’rah within who tells us we are just not good enough, not strong enough, not wise enough, not competent enough! It is all falsehood.
R’ Tzadok ha’Kohen of Lublin (1823-1900) taught: כשם שאדם שצריך להאמין בה׳, כך צריך להאמין בעצמו – Just as one must believe in G-d, so too, he must believe in himself.
We too are tasked with missions in life – perhaps not as lofty or nation-altering as the mission of Moshe Rabbeinu – but missions of significance and great importance, nonetheless.
While we work to see the good in those around us, let us not forget to strive to see the good within ourselves as well.
Of her mother, the legendary Rebbetzin Henny Machlis a’h of Yerushalayim, her daughter says, “I got married on a Thursday night between Yom Kippur and Succot… Yom Kippur was Wednesday. Thursday night (was) the wedding at the wedding hall. Friday night, it was business as usual (with scores of Shabbos guests at the Machlis home). Until then, I was my mother’s only help in the kitchen, so my getting married left her totally on her own. That Shabbos night, we had scores of regular guests, including our fifty American relatives, on the front lawn (for sheva brachos). My mother, rather than getting stressed out and complaining, said, ‘This is my pleasure. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.’ And Sunday night was Succot, in the Succah with a house full of guests and another sheva brachos. Yet my mother was always with a smile…”
If we look beyond our limitations, the possibilities for success abound. For just as one must believe in G-d, so too, he must believe in himself.
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,