Exodus 6:2 – 9:35
From the Burning Bush to the Plagues in Egypt, Moses is forced to face and then to overcome his self-doubt. Never mind that he has just interacted with the Creator of the Universe, never mind that his eventual success is guaranteed by God over and again: Moses struggles to believe – in himself.
“And Moses spoke before the Lord, saying: ‘Behold, the Children of Israel have not hearkened to me; how then will Pharaoh hear me, and I am of uncircumcised lips?’” (Ex. 6:12)
Va’era gives us a glimpse into the making of a Jewish hero. Moses focuses on his own shortcomings, and on his initial failure. He sees himself as unfit for the task. After all, how can he be God’s spokesman with a speech impediment (uncircumcised lips)? How can he convince Pharaoh if the Israelites themselves won’t listen?
God’s answer is as simple as it is true. To paraphrase, God tells Moses to ‘get back in there’ and provides specific instructions about what to do and details ways that God will help. In other words, if we let our fear of failure drive our decisions, then we will surely fail. If we look at the obstacles before us and seek solutions to overcome them, we will surely succeed. If we keep ourselves focused on the end goal, then every failure along the way is a necessary lesson along our path to eventual success. God may not use these specific words, but this is exactly what Torah teaches over the course of the entire Exodus narrative.
As the inheritors of this precious tradition, we can recognize ourselves in this story. Whatever our self-doubts may be, we can follow Moses’ lead: with clarity of vision and with God’s help, anything is possible.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras