Moses says to God:
The people would not listen
So why should Pharaoh?
Adonai spoke to Moses, saying, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites depart from his land.” But Moses appealed to God, saying, “The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech!”
There seem to be two reasons why Moses was reluctant to face Pharaoh as God had commanded.
First, the Israelites wouldn’t listen. Why would they? In last week’s portion they were heartened when Moses told them God had taken notice of their situation (Exodus 4:30-31). But after Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler resisted and made things even more difficult for the slaves (Exodus 5:6-9). As this week’s portion begins, God once again speaks to Moses, and Moses once again speaks to the people. But this time, “they would not listen to Moses, their spirits crushed by cruel bondage.” (Exodus 6:9)
Without support from the “rank and file”, it is difficult for a leader to have confidence when facing an adversary.
Moses was also concerned because he had a speech impediment. It’s not specified, but many believe he had a lisp or was a stutterer. Even those of us without such a handicap can identify with the fear Moses had about going before Pharaoh. We know our Biblical ancestors were not perfect, and Moses tried to use his personal shortcomings as an excuse to avoid doing what God commanded. But God insisted, provided a bit of support by having Aaron accompany his brother – not to mention all of those plagues – and Moses succeeded.
As my friend Larry Glickman writes this week on ReformJudaism.org, “Moses belongs to anyone who has a ‘thing’ they would rather not have. Your thing may be that you have a speech impediment, or that you are short or bald or would just rather not speak in front of a large group. Whatever the thing is, let it be only a hurdle, not a wall – and hurdles can be jumped!”
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