Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat, December 31 - January 1- Parshat VaEra 

Torah Reading: VaEra (Exodus 6:2 - 9:35)
Candle Lighting  4:19 PM
Shabbat ends 5:25 PM

Shabbat Mevarchim - we bless the New Month of Shevat

Heavy - Seal

In last week’s parsha the Torah recorded G‑d’s lengthy entreaty to Moses (at the Burning Bush) that he be the one to liberate the Jews from Egypt. Moses at first demurred. One of his arguments was that he had a speech impediment; in Moses’ words: “for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.” 

G‑d refuted his argument by telling him: “Who gave man a mouth… is it not I, G‑d? So now go, I will be with your mouth, and I will teach you what to say.”

Moses was still not willing to go. He asked G‑d to send someone else. According to Rashi, Moses meant his brother Aaron. G‑d responded to that proposal by saying that Aaron would be happy for Moses to be the chosen one. G‑d hen reassured Moses that He would put the right words in both Moses’ and Aaron’s mouths.

The parsha ends with Moses going to Pharaoh and demanding that he let the people go so that they may serve their G‑d. Pharaoh responds by making the already unbearable situation even worse, whereupon Moses protests to G‑d for having sent him.

This week’s parsha picks up where the last one left off. G‑d rebukes Moses for questioning Him and then proceeds to give Moses the mission of telling the people that they will be liberated. The people, however, did not listen to Moses because of the new and harsher circumstances: “They did not listen to Moses due to their lack ofpatience and hard labor.”

Moses then argued: “If the children of Israel did not listen to me, then how will Pharaoh listen to me? I have sealed lips.” G‑d told Moses to use Aaron as his interpreter and to display certain miracles to Pharaoh.

There are several glaring questions that arise when we compare the content of last week’s parsha with this week’s parsha. In last week’s parsha, Moses had already used the argument that he had a speech impediment, and G‑d refuted it by saying that He will be with Moses and instruct him.

Another salient difference between G‑d’s commission to Moses in last week’s parsha as compared with His instructions to him in this week’s parsha is this: in last week’s parsha G‑d does not appoint Aaron to be Moses’ interpreter for Pharaoh. G‑d merely tells Moses that Aaron would assist him in delivering the message to the people. Nothing is said about him being the one to transmit Moses’ words to Pharaoh. And even that role given to Aaron came only after Moses told G‑d that he should send Aaron instead.

Yet in this week’s parsha, G‑d tells him to appoint Aaron to be his interpreter for Pharaoh specifically. So why did Moses bring up his original “discredited” argument about his speech disability when G‑d already refuted it in last week’s parsha? Also, why did G‑d not appoint Aaron to be his interpreter for Pharaoh in the first place? Why did He wait for Moses to once again invoke his speech impediment in this week’s parsha to assign this new role of interpreter to Aaron? Thirdly, why did G‑d not tell Moses to perform the miracles for Pharaoh in last week’s parsha? G‑d only told him to perform these miracles for the Jewish people, but not for Pharaoh. In this week’s parsha, G‑d tell Moses and Aaron to perform the miracle of the staff turning into a serpent followed by the Ten Plagues?

Finally, when Moses mentioned his disability in last week’s parsha he refered to himself as being “heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.” Yet in this week’s parsha he describes himself as one who has “sealed lips.” What’s the difference between “heavy of mouth and tongue” and "sealed lips?” Why the change of language?

The answer to all these questions perhaps lies in the state of the Jewish people before Moses went to Pharaoh and their mindset after he was spurned by Pharaoh and the exile was made more pernicious.

As long as the Jewish people believed that Moses was sent by G‑d to liberate them, there was no need to perform miracles for Pharaoh. Their faith was so powerful that it could “infect” everybody. The key to Moses’ success in touching Pharaoh’s cruel heart was the faith of the people. When G‑d told Moses that the people would believe, that was sufficient for the success of Moses’ mission.

When a Jew is filled with conviction and faith, the Pharaoh’s of the world hear them loudly and clearly even if their speech is garbled. They do not have to be endowed with oratorical skills. Words suffused with pure faith and profound conviction in G‑d, suffice to penetrate the heart of even the most cruel tyrant.

At that juncture, Moses did not really need Aaron to be his interpreter. Aaron’s role as Moses’ accomplice was only intended to accommodate Moses’ request that Aaron be chosen as the liberator. Moses, his speech impediment notwithstanding, would be able to get the message through to Pharaoh despite his physical disability, with or without Aaron. Moses did not need an interpreter and did not need to perform any miracles for Pharaoh because he had the power of the faith of the Jewish people whom he was representing.

But when Moses’ saw how his words backfired and had actually exacerbated the already intolerable plight of his brethren, Moses blamed himself for his failure to convey the divine message in an untainted fashion. “Obviously,” Moses must have concluded, “if the message is G‑dly and the people who I am representing are pure in their faith, the fault must be with me, the messenger.” Moses, therefore “complained” to G‑d by saying, “why did you send me?”

Now in this week’s parsha, when G‑d tells him to go again to Pharaoh, Moses’ reaction is even stronger and his argument buttressed. His argument was: If the Jewish people were no longer filled with the same degree of receptivity to the message of Redemption and were not responsive to his words, how will Pharaoh listen to me?

Moses meant by this that if his impaired speech had any power it can only be because of the faith of the people he is representing that is channeled through him. But if the people are no longer generating the energy to him though their faith, he was now doubly impaired.

The first impairment was based on Moses’ humble perception, that his physical impediment mirrored his spiritual shortcoming. But, now there was an additional factor that did not exist before - the fact that the people he represented were no longer imbued with the same intense faith and were no longer channeling their convictions to him. This meant that he was now totally incapable of getting through to Pharaoh. His power base was compromised and, in his own mind, he himself lacked even the most rudimentary communication skills.             

Moses thus employs a much stronger terms to describe his speech impediment. Whereas in last week’s parsha he characterizes his disability as being “heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue,”—heavy but not sealed—in this week’s parsha he describes himself as having “sealed lips.” This implied that he felt that he was now totally incapable of transmitting any meaningful message.

G‑d therefore “tweaked” the nature of the mission. Now Aaron was going to be the main speaker to Pharaoh. In addition, they will henceforth perform miracles to compensate for the lack of overt faith by the people. True Moses is still the main liberator, for only the humble Moses was the transparent soul, who could channel G‑d’s words unfiltered and untainted, but now Moses’ power will be channeled through Aaron.

The lesson from the above is that even Moses’ ability to communicate and liberate was influenced and affected by the faith of the nation. It is the nation that gives their leader the power to lead and liberate.

The power that we give our leaders is based on a Torah principle that “there is no king without a nation.” Without the nation’s acceptance of their leader as their leader; without the people embracing of their leader’s, the leader’s abilities are also compromised.

Thus, it was the Jewish people’s faith in the words of Moses their leader that empowered him to have his words penetrate Pharaoh’s heart.

What is true about every leader from Moses’ onward is especially true of the relationship between the people and Moshiach, the final leader and redeemer. The Ba’al Shem Tov states that each and every Jew possesses a spark of Moshiach. If our spark is strong it empowers Moshiach to actualize his Messianic potential and execute his role as the redeemer of the Jewish people.

If there is a weakness in the faith of the people because of the harsh conditions of exile, there are two alternatives. The first is to find the right people to be the Aaron’s who bring Moshiach’s message to the people. Aaron’s ability to open the hearts of the people is due to the closeness of Aaron to the people. While Moses is referred to as the “escort of the King” meaning that he was G‑d’s “representative” to the people, Aaron is the “escort of the queen,” he is the representative of the people to G‑d. Aaron, though he “merely” interpreted Moses’ words and received his power from him, had the advantage that he was closer to the people than Moses and was therefore able to reach into them and expose their true faith.

In our generation that was declared by the Rebbe to be the “last generation of exile and the first of the Redemption,” it is our task to be the Aarons to bring Moshiach’s message to the world and thereby inspire the entire world with the message of Moshiach’s imminent arrival to usher in the final, complete and permanent Redemption.

Our generation is also witness to unprecedented miracles. The most notable arguably—although, we take it for granted—is the freedom for millions of Soviet Jews. No generation has seen so many miracles in their own personal lives as we have seen. These displays of G‑dly power coupled with fulfilling our role as “Aarons” should serve to strengthen our faith in the coming of Moshiach. Our strengthened faith, in turn, will further enhance the effectiveness of the “Aarons” of the world and ultimately strengthen the hands of Moshiach to rid the world of its “Pharaohs” and all of that which is undesirable, and usher in the age which Maimonides—whose 806th yahrtzeit was observed this week, on the 20th of Tevet—describes in the end of his monumental work, Mishneh Torah, citing the prophet Isaiah: “The entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d’s as the seabed is covered with water.”

Moshiach Matters 

"The belief in the future Redemption is part of the belief in G‑d, which is the first of the ten Commandments, 'I am the L-rd your G‑d.' When it comes to discussing G‑d, we find that in is common for us to discuss it and talk about it. However, when it comes to discussing Moshiach and the Resurrection of the Dead, we shy away from the subject!... Whoever is not totally involved in the complete belief of the Redemption and the resurrection is similarly incomplete in his belief in G‑d." (Ohr Yechezkel, Rabbi Yechezkel Lowenstein, Ponovitz Yeshivah)

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