As the chosen redeemer of the Jewish people, what was Moshe's job
description? History refers to Moshe as "Our Teacher." However, an analysis
of Moshe's relationship with the Jewish people reveals a far more exacting
and detailed job description.
Moshe's mission started at the Burning Bush when G-d said to him, "Go to
Pharaoh and take the Jews out of Egypt." (3:10). For all intents and
purposes, that was it for the job description. The interview was over, and
Moshe had the job! Moshe was supposed to go to Pharaoh, and take the Jews
out. That was it! What Moshe was supposed to say to Pharaoh and how he was to
take the Jews out of Egypt were not explained. In fact, the only reason G-d
continued talking to Moshe and gave him a bag of tricks with which to impress
Pharaoh and the enslaved Jews was because Moshe began to question G-d. Had
Moshe simply said, "OK, thank you!" off he would have gone to Egypt!
What would have happened if Moshe had not questioned G-d? How different would
the story of the Exodus have been?
I believe that an analysis of Moshe's exchange with G-d at the end of last
week's Parsha, and G-d's answer to Moshe that continues in this week's Parsha
reveals the answer.
In last week's Parsha it was decided that Moshe and Aharon would go to
Pharaoh and tell him to let the Jews leave Egypt. As the Torah records, the
confrontation did not go well and instead of the Jews being set free Pharaoh
made their lot worse. The Jewish overseers verbally assaulted Moshe for
making things worse and Moshe then complained to G-d. "Why have You done evil
to this people, why have You sent me?"
There are two classic approaches to understand Moshe's question.
1. Moshe challenged G-d's justice. In his fervor and concern over the plight
of the Jewish people, Moshe allowed himself the right to question G-d's
2. Moshe did not challenge G-d's judiciousness. Moshe was reflecting back on
his own obvious inadequacies. Clearly, G-d's judiciousness could not be
questioned. "G-d is a Rock and all His ways are just and perfect." However,
G-d is limited by the actions of humans.
Whenever G-d works through a human agent, there is the possibility of that
agent messing up. (Similar to the way computers must feel about us) If the
human agent sins, or chooses to go against G-d's instructions, the original
plan will not work. The result will of course be the same because G-d has
unlimited resources with which to accomplish his intended goal. However, the
original plan involving the human agent and allotted time schedule would have
to be changed. Therefore, when the plan did not work as Moshe thought it
would it was because Moshe was not worthy of being the medium through which
G-d's power would be miraculously revealed.
G-d's response to Moshe must be analyzed in relation to both possible
explanations of Moshe's complaint. According to Rashi, G-d immediately
compared Moshe's questioning of either his own inadequacy or G-d's
judiciousness to Avraham's unquestioning belief and loyalty. "Although I
promised Avraham that his future children would come through Yitzchak,
Avraham did not question Me when I told him to sacrifice Yitzchak! Yet, you
now question my methods!" (Rashi 6:1)
Rashi's presentation of G-d's opening response easily follows the first of
our possible explanations of Moshe's complaint. G-d was criticizing Moshe for
questioning G-d's judiciousness by contrasting him with Avraham's absolute
belief and trust in G-d. "Just as Avraham did not question My methods so too
you should not question My methods."
In this week's Parsha, G-d continued his critique of Moshe's lack of trust.
"In fact, Avraham had more reason to question My methods than Moshe. It was
to Avraham that I had promised that Yitzchak would father a nation of
children who would inherit the land of Canaan. Avraham lived to see two
grandchildren and no more. He never lived to see the fulfillment of the
promise. However, you Moshe are standing on the threshold of redemption. You
are to be the fulfillment of My promise to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. What
right do you have to question My judiciousness!" (Rashi, 6:2,3,4)
However, according to the second explanation of Moshe's complaint, G-d's
response does not seem to address Moshe's question. If Moshe was questioning
his own inadequacies as the human agent and not G-d's judiciousness, how did
the comparison with Avraham answer Moshe's doubts? If anything, it lent
credence to Moshe's own sense of inadequacies. "Yes, You are absolutely
right! I am inadequate. I am lacking in trust and belief. I am not an Avraham
a Yitzchak or a Yaakov. They would have been deserving of revealing Your
greatness in the world. I, as my own question reveals, am not worthy! Didn't
I tell You to send someone else!"
The truth is that the comparison to the Forefathers was the perfect answer to
Moshe's proclaimed inadequacy. Regardless of why, G-d had chosen Moshe to do
the job. He was the one. Had G-d wanted to, He would have chosen someone
The truth is that Moshe was the perfect person for the job for the very
reasons that he appeared to be inadequate. G-d wanted a human agent who on
his own could not have possibly gotten the job done. Therefore, it would be
clear to the world that G-d was the One Who had taken the Jews out of slavery
and no one else.
Moshe was to one day be proclaimed by G-d as "the most humble of all men to
have ever lived." However, there are times when humility is a weakness rather
than a strength. Humility that recognizes ability but avoids arrogance is a
virtue. Humility that denies ability and responsibility is a weakness.
In last week's Parsha, G-d would have killed Moshe if not for Tziporah's
quick intervention. This shows that G-d was prepared to pull the plug on
Operation Moses if Moshe proved to be inadequate. Had that happened, we most
likely would have never heard about Moshe's miraculous birth, development,
and demise. Instead, the story of the Exodus would have had a different set
of players and events. The result would have been the same. The Jews would
have been freed and G-d's greatness would have been revealed. Therefore, it
was incumbent upon Moshe to accept that he was the chosen Redeemer, whether
he understood it or not, whether he wanted the job or not.
When Moshe confronted G-d by questioning his own adequacy for the job of
Redeemer, he questioned G-d's methods. Moshe was not ignorant of his own
actions. Moshe knew whether he had sinned between the time he was given the
job and the time he stood before Pharaoh. He had not! The one sin of not
giving his son a Bris had been dealt with. Therefore, Moshe should have
proceeded with absolute confidence that what he was doing was playing a role
in a script that had been carefully scripted by G-d. Regardless of his
questions and doubts, G-d was in charge.
G-d compared Moshe to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov because they epitomized
trust. Regardless of why Moshe questioned G-d's plan, it reflected a lack of
trust in G-d's handling of the operation. True, Moshe was to be the most
humble of all men, however, G-d wanted to make sure that his humility was a
virtue and not a weakness.
Had Moshe accepted the job from the very beginning without questioning his
own inadequacy or his trust in G-d, the story of the Exodus would have been
far more profound and revealing. Moshe would have gone directly to Pharaoh,
told him that G-d had sent him with the message, "Let My people go!" and
Pharaoh would have said "Yes, go!" That would have been it! No plagues, no
other miracles, just a simple go! That would have been the greatest miracle
of all. As my Grandfather Zt'l writes in Darash Moshe, it would have been the
manifestation of the G-d who sets limits to the world and has absolute
control over all things, including the actions of humans. When it was the
time for redemption and the end of slavery Pharaoh would have let the Jews
go! It would have revealed that the enslavement was for a reason and that G-d
was the absolute ruler of all things including time and circumstance.
Instead, Moshe argued with G-d and questioned His methodology necessitating a
bag of tricks and miracles to reveal G-d's greatness.