Moses: Reluctant Leader

Was leading nation a dream come true for Moses? Not so much!

My first inclination was to say NO, but it’s more nuanced than that. He was conflicted and unsure of his place in the world and in his community. I think the answer is more of a complex YES and NO.

As a person with disabilities and C-PTSD, navigating an often unkind and ableist world, I really relate to Moshe/Moses!

Moses was a socially awkward shepherd, with a disability (a speech impediment) he was very self-conscious about. The last thing he wanted was to be a community spokesperson and convince people to respect what he had to say. He didn’t apply for the job — GD pretty much made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

וַיְדַבֵּ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹ֖ר אֲנִ֣י יְהוָ֑ה דַּבֵּ֗ר אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י דֹּבֵ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃ and the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I will tell you,”

Exodus 6:12 וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֵ֤ן בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֹֽא־שָׁמְע֣וּ אֵלַ֔י וְאֵיךְ֙ יִשְׁמָעֵ֣נִי פַרְעֹ֔ה וַאֲנִ֖י עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם׃ (פ But Moses appealed to the LORD, saying, “The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech!”

I can hear Moses saying in a Rodney Dangerfield accent, “I get no respect, I tell you, no respect at all.” There was always another armchair quarterback and another heckler in the wings. Everyone’s a critic, as the old saying goes.

Moses had a heartfelt passion for his work in the world, but he also felt overwhelmed by the hurdles he faced. He felt his disability and social awkwardness placed him at a disadvantage in his community, especially in comparison to his able-bodied brother, Aaron/Aharon, who was the Grand Poobah (😃) of High Priests. Again, I can relate. I feel that way within the Jewish community of modern times.

There is so much to love in the message that GD chose a self-conscious person with a speech impediment to teach the people, receive the Torah and be the mouthpiece for Divinity.

The Moses story is replete with inspirational messages. The most supportive and influential person in the life of Moses was not a member of the Israelite tribe. When Moses was burning the candle at both ends, trying to please all of the people all of the time, it was his father-in-law, Yitro, the Midianite Priest, who stepped in to help Moses stay the course. Due to the wise counsel of his mentor, Yitro, Moses did not not throw in the towel.

Yitro’s advice was unsolicited, but Moses embraced it and was better for it. Sometimes people bristle at unsolicited advice. The key to his openness was trust. Moses trusted Yitro. Yitro helped Moses be a better leader, but he did not try to usurp or upstage him. Yitro offered sound advice that built Moses up as a leader, without tearing him down.

Moses, leader of the ancient Israelites, also set an example for interfaith and interracial marriage. He was married to Tzipporah, the Ethiopian daughter of Yitro, the Midianite priest, despite the fact that his sister, Miriam, and his brother Aharon, appeared to disapprove of their union. (Bamidbar/Numbers 12:1).

Modern, mainstream Judaism tends to portray Tzipporah as a “convert to Judaism,” but that’s questionable. First of all, modern Judaism and the ancient Israelite religion differ significantly. Tzipporah didn’t attend conversion classes at her local synagogue for 18 months and graduate with a conversion certificate signed by a rabbi. Conversion, in ancient times, simply meant going along with the program to fit into a tribal culture or the tribal culture of your spouse. For women, it was more about protection and survival than anything else.

Moses had his own unique work to do in the world, as we all do, but he often felt devalued and dispirited. Even his beloved sister, Miriam, questioned his merit and gave him flak.

Have you ever felt marginalized and undervalued because of your age, gender, body size, social awkwardness, health challenge or disability?

How do you stay motivated to do your work in the world, when confronted with similar circumstances?

What messages in this story speak to you the most?


©️2019 D’var Torah – ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDChochmat Halev (Wisdom of the Heart is my Ner Tamid (Eternal Light).

9 thoughts on “Moses: Reluctant Leader

        1. Soul Circle

          It provides a a lot of interesting fodder for a class discussion. Some things seem better suited for interactive study sessions and discussions, than for blog posts. Maybe I’ll post it in the future.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Shaina N

    I love my work in the world. But, many times it has been hindered by negative and critical people that have put me down. I have had to strive to knock off the chains of oppression that were bestowed upon me, even by my own people (read fellow Jews). I have been fortunate enough to bounce back and thrive because of women like you, Abby, who have comforted and supported me during my times of adversity. You are always there for me, and I appreciate that immensely. That has helped me become a better person. We all need our Jitro (Abby) in order to succeed with our life’s work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soul Circle

      I’m the Jewish Yitro! 😀 I hope to continue living up to that honor. I’m thankful to you for sharing your personal experiences. You’re my Yitro too! Much love, honor and appreciaton to you!! 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Phil Sutherland

    I had one experience as a leader and speaker that left me feeling a bit like Moses. I was in charge of the MP’s at MCAS Iwakuni, and was tasked with giving the Welcome Aboard lecture to the new Marines being assigned to the base. I put on a slide presentation to familiarize them with the things available on base, such as swimming pool, gym, etc., and to behave in town for them to remember they were in a foreign country, and to behave themselves, or end up in a Japanese Jail which was much rougher than the ones in the U.S. Usually, that lecture was to just a few, maybe up to as much as 30 people. Then, they decided to rotate entire squadrons in instead of just a few people to the one of three squadrons. That meant going from giving a lecture to 30 people to over 1000. The Commanding General contacted me and told me that he wanted me to give the same lecture to each rotating squadron, as well as the handful of replacements that would drift in during the year. The first show to an entire squadron had the General seated in the audience, as well as the senior officers of the squadron, from the Colonel on down. I was a bit nervous because although I had spoken to a graduating series on the drill field, I had never spoken to a group that large or with the General sitting in the audience. So, I have an idea how Moses felt when told to go speak to Pharaoh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soul Circle

      Wow! Great story!! Thank you for sharing it!! I can imagine how nerve wracking that was, but you did i. 🥳🤩 How did it go?

      Like

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