Thursday, January 8, 2015

Parsha: Why Choose Moshe to Lead? He had a Speech Impediment!?

 Rav Turetsky

Moshe appears to have a unique and singular status. Rashi (Bamidbar 30:2)[1] and Rambam (Hil.Yesodei haTorah 7:6-8:1) note the special quality of Moshe’s prophecy. Meshech Chochmah (introduction to Sefer Shemot) even discusses how Moshe may have reached a level comparable to angels, possibly forgoing his own free choice.
In light of that, Hashem’s choice to have Moshe lead the Jewish people is very understandable. He truly emerged as an unparalleled leader and model for future generations. Yet, Moshe did have an impediment that could have disqualified him from serious consideration for any leadership role. As Moshe himself notes (Shemot 4:10), he has some sort of speech impediment.[2] One would think effective communication is a necessary prerequisite for successful leadership. Why then would Hashem choose a leader that is not comfortable speaking publicly? And even if Moshe was the right choice, wouldn’t he have more confidence in his abilities as an orator had he never had an affliction?

  1. Bechor Shor (Shemot 4:11) suggests that Hashem saw significance in choosing a leader unable to speak clearly; having someone  limited by a speech impediment lead the Jewish people out of Egypt brings much honor to God. R. Hirsch (4:11) offers a similar interpretation. Hashem responded to Moshe that one who stammers is the most fitting for the mission. It is of enormous credit to Hashem if someone who normally has a speech impediment is able to speak clearly in God’s mission.
  2. Maybe an additional message can be gleaned from Hashem’s choice of Moshe as leader. While effective communication is critical, one need not be a comfortable orator to succeed. Communication comes in different ways. The Jewish people were given a leader that inspired through his courage and conviction, a leader that moved them by example.[3] Moshe served as a model for Godliness in this world, and the Jewish people knew that. While unable to communicate orally, Moshe taught us so many important of lessons.
One can often encounter charismatic orators capable of inspiring and wowing a crowd. The choice of Moshe reminds us that the kind of leadership that lasts is one that is modeled by actions, not words.
May we be Zoche to effectively model the ideals we all hold so dear!

[1] See Kedushat Levi there
[2] See Rashi, Rashbam and R. Hirsch there
[3] See Rav Avraham Schorr, HaLekech ViHaLibuv on Avot 1:1

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