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Torah Commentary
Va-eira (January 28, 2017)

Bettijane Eisenpreis

But Moses appealed to the Lord, saying, “The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech!”
(Exodus 6:12)

It is interesting that Moses, to whom the Lord is said to have spoken “face to face,” and who probably does more speaking than any other single character in the Bible except for God, is said to have a speech impediment. Moses who recites the Ten Commandments to the Hebrews! The Book of Deuteronomy almost entirely is composed of Moses’ repetition of laws given in earlier books. And, at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses recites one of the most beautiful poems in the entire Bible.

True, God tells Moses that Aaron will speak for him. But Aaron, who becomes the head priest and the leader of the Levites, doesn’t talk a lot in these pages. So, what are we to make of Moses’ “impeded speech”?

Perhaps because he has some trouble speaking, Moses is suited ideally for listening. He truly hears God, and so he can pass God’s message along to the people. Often, people who like to talk are so busy talking that they don’t listen. I know whereof I speak, because that is one of my greatest problems. Even as the other person is telling me something, I am so busy preparing my answer that I don’t really understand what he or she is saying.

But Moses wasn’t in a hurry to talk. Talking was difficult for him, so he probably paid careful attention to what he was going to have to relay to others. And, despite the objection he raised about his “impeded speech,” he was obviously in awe of the fact that God Himself was speaking to him.

God does seem to try to make things a little easier. When the Lord speaks to Moses it is always one-on-one, well away from anyone else. The most famous conversation is on top of Mount Sinai. Moses cannot help but listen. In fact, he is so far away and so busy listening that all kinds of mischief take place down below in his absence. (Oops! I am giving away some of the story that hasn’t happened yet.) As for the Ten Commandments, they are written down on those tablets, so Moses only has to read them — not make them up.

The bottom line is this: Moses, were he speaking on his own without Divine inspiration, could probably not speak clearly. But if God could free the Israelites from Pharaoh; if God could lead them through the Red Sea; why couldn’t God do a little speech therapy? In the grand scheme of things, that seems like only a minor miracle.

Bettijane Eisenpreis, a freelance writer, is a long-time member of Temple Emanu-El
and a regular participant in our Saturday morning Torah study group.

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