Va’eira (I appeared)

Torah Portion: Va’eira (I appeared)                 Torah Reading:  Exodus 6:2-9:35                 Prophetic Reading:  Ezekiel 28:25-29:21



“God Uses His People Despite Their Inadequacy”

In last week’s Torah portion, Moses was born and called into service. At first, Moses did not want to answer the Lord’s call. The primary reason was that he did not think that he was fit for the job.  In Exodus 4:10 Moses states that he is not a man of words for he had a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue. Scholars have debated what exactly the intent of Moses’ statement was. God responds that He is the One Who placed the tongue in a man. In other words, the Lord made Moses the way he is, and therefore He is obviously aware of any physical limitations that he might have. Moses’ response did not change the Lord’s call upon him, for God said,

And now go, and I will be with your mouth, and I will teach you what you shall say.”

Exodus 4:12

The construction of the Hebrew sentence makes it very clear that the Lord was going to be with Moses in a special way, only if he obeyed the Lord’s call and he went. Also, please notice that the text does not say that God will teach Moses how to speak as some translations infer; rather only what to say.

In this week’s Parashah Moses twice mentions this same “handicap” by saying that he has uncircumcised lips (See Exodus 6:12, 30). Rashi understands this term to mean “lips that are sealed”. He cites Jeremiah 6:10 when the same word is used but this time it is used to describe ears. Many would understand this to mean that their ears were closed in the sense they were unwilling to hear. In returning to Moses, does this mean that Moses was unwilling to speak? The context makes it clear that Moses was not saying to the Lord that he was unwilling, but more in line with the idea that he was unable to speak in a manner that Pharaoh would respond.

In Leviticus 19:23 the word appears in regard to the fruit of a tree which is considered uncircumcised or forbidden for the first three years. The word appears also in Habakkuk 2:16 and this time one is offered a large variety of different translations for this word.  Close examination of this word reveals that the concept of “uncircumcised” means that which cannot produce the desired results; that is, something which is unacceptable to God. In one sense, Moses was right, he could not speak in a manner that would accomplish the purposes of God unless the Lord moved in the situation. This is exactly what the Lord promised to do back in Exodus 4:12, and in chapter 6 Moses was confessing that if he was going to be successful, then the Lord was going to have to be active in the situation.

It is very important that immediately after Moses said this the second time in Exodus 6:30 that God said to Moses,

“…See I have set you (as) a judge to Pharaoh and Aharon your brother will be your prophet.” Exodus 7:1

The word I translated “judge” is literally the word Elohim or God. This word can also be used in regard to people or angels, and in these cases it carries a meaning of a judge or a superior. We all know that in the end, Pharaoh did exactly what Moses ordered him to do and Pharaoh sent the Children of Israel forth from Egypt.

The lesson for us is a simple one; every aspect of our being is uncircumcised, until the Lord moves in our life. When He does, He can take one like Moses who had a heavy mouth and tongue and make him into one that, Stephen said, was “mighty in words” (See Acts 7:22).

The Lord has a call for your life; it may very well be in an area that you feel inadequate and not gifted. This is often the case, as faith is trusting in the Holy Spirit to equip us when we see no physical means that we can accomplish the task. Remember God’s words earlier to Moses, “And now go, and I will be…”

Dr. Baruch Korman – January 20th, 2023


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