Down in the Mouth: Shemot 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you fear public speaking? If so, what aspects of it concern you most? If not, how might you assist others in overcoming their fears?

As we turn to the book of Exodus, we are introduced to Moses, who is forthright with his reluctance to lead the Israelites:

The Pitch: “But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” – Exodus 4:10

Swing #1: “Moses was created a stammerer to make it known that the influence he wielded and the fact that he gave the Law to the Jewish people were not due to any talent of his but only to the spirit of prophetic vision with which he was endowed, for ‘the Shekhina spoke from within his throat.’” – RaN

Swing #2: “I am not experienced in knowing how to address people in authority, such as kings.” – Sforno

Swing #3: “Moses’s reluctance [is] all obviously told so as to make them agree with the ideas about prophetic call current in the narrator’s own time. It is amazing to see such a wealth of psychological and theological nuance in ideas which may well belong to the ninth century, and it is equally amazing that the question of legitimation was even then given such importance, though, of course, it is only with Jeremiah, of the writing prophets, that the question becomes acute.” – Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Volume II

Late-Inning Questions: Our commentators offer different reasons for Moses’s fear, suggesting that he may have had a speech impediment, or that he was afraid to speak to other leaders, or that he (like most other prophets) are reluctant to inhabit the role of God’s messenger. Which suggestion makes the most sense to you? Does this passage from the Torah make Moses more relatable? Can it teach us to sympathize with those who must step out of our comfort zone to do important work for others?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We hope you’re staying safe and warm during this rare dose of winter weather in Charleston. Please continue to check your email for any relevant weather-related announcements from our synagogue.

The Big Inning at the End: Seventeen years ago today, Ichiro Suzuki signed a contract with the Seattle Mariners to become the first Japanese position player in Major League history. Ichiro’s success helped launch the careers of dozens of Asian ballplayers, enriching the talent at baseball’s highest level.

Shabbat Shalom!