Off the Pulpit: Effortful Eloquence

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

When God calls to Moses at the burning bush, Moses protests that he cannot go to Pharaoh because he has a speech impediment. If the Torah were a children’s fairy tale book, God would have simply cured Moses of his impediment, and sent him to Pharaoh.

Rather than cure Moses, God says, “Who gives man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11). God not only acknowledges Moses’ problems with speech, but claims responsibility for them.

For the next 40 years, Moses will lead a recalcitrant and immature people through the wilderness to the foot of the promised land. There are innumerable difficulties and trials along the way. The same God that miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt could presumably miraculously install them across the Jordan.

But as with Moses, the effort itself is indispensable. We struggle with speech as we do with silence, with closeness as with distance, with faith as with doubt. But our impediments are also encouragements — to do better, to be better. God understood that Moses’ words would be wrung from pain and etched in fire, so that after thousands of years they continue to change lives.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

Share Button