Why Moses Resists Being Chosen to Lead the Israelites

He insists he’s not cut out for the job, and his reason has something to do with the way he speaks.

From a fresco in the Palazzo Constabili in Ferrara, Italy. Wikimedia.

From a fresco in the Palazzo Constabili in Ferrara, Italy. Wikimedia.

Atar Hadari
Observation
Jan. 7 2016
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


This week’s reading of Va’era (Exodus 6:2 – 9:35) relates how Moses goes about putting the squeeze on Pharaoh and extracting the children of Israel like a bad debt. But let’s look first at the background: at the character of Moses as revealed in the previous week’s reading (Exodus 1:1 – 6:1) and specifically at his persistent refusal to undertake his mission. His opposition to God’s demand takes the art of argument with the Almighty—the special gift that, as I’ve noted earlier, distinguishes both Abraham and Moses as the two great founders of the Jewish people—beyond the insistence on justice to a whole new level of recalcitrance.

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More about: Hebrew Bible, Moses, Religion & Holidays, The Monthly Portion