Why is Moses "Flawed"?
Parashat Va’eira – is arguably one of the most famous throughout the Chumash/Five Books of Moses.
The name of the parsha itself – va’eira – which means “and I appeared,” refers to the iconic moment when Hashem speaks to Moshe/Moses from the burning bush.
Moshe – after fleeing from Egypt and settling down in Midian with his wife, children, and father-in-law Yitro - is out tending his flock of sheep.
He sees a bush that is on fire but miraculously isn’t burning up, and as he watches, Hashem speaks to him.
In that moment, Hashem charges him with a mission – to return to Egypt and demand from Pharaoh that he let the Jewish people go. Hashem tells him that he is the only person in the world who has the capacity to relay this message to Pharaoh.
There’s only one problem: Moshe has a speech disability that left him with a stutter.
One might expect that this kind of impediment would make him totally unsuited and ultimately unsuccessful for this incredibly important mission.
Why would Hashem give a man with a speech impediment such an important task that depends on his ability to use words to convince?
And if Hashem runs the world, why would Hashem have given Moshe a stutter in the first place knowing this would be his ultimate mission?
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, teaches in his writings that the word “Torah” comes from the same root word as “hora-ah”, the Hebrew word for a teaching or lesson.
Every detail in the Torah is a lesson to us.
Moshe is considered the greatest prophet and leader of Judaism who ever lived. The person who encountered Hashem “face-to-face,” i.e., intimately.
Yet, his amazing qualities and stature poses another problem.
How can we relate to a leader who seems to be perfect? How can we learn from such a person when we are ourselves are far from perfect?
By creating a stutter for Moshe, Hashem tasked him with figuring out a way to communicate with Pharaoh convincingly in spite of his disability.
For us flawed humans, a man who has to overcome what would seem to be an insurmountable disability -- now that’s relatable!
And that makes him a leader we can imagine ourselves able to emulate.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Reggio Emilia, Italy, and learn about its ground-breaking early childhood educational philosophy.
There, I saw how schools reorganized themselves around one of the most powerful values in the world of education -- that each and every child has unique abilities and even disabilities that make them who they are.
In Reggio Emilia, it is the job of educators to teach to each child’s uniqueness and empower them to be able to learn, express, and create meaning.
In many of our schools, unfortunately, it is the job of the child to adapt themselves to the way the school and the educators decide to educate them.
King Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs: “Chanoch lana’ar al pi darko -- Teach each child according to his own path.”
Long before Reggio Emilia, and other current progressive educational philosophies came to light, King Solomon taught us how we should relate to children in their schooling and beyond.
And this is what we learn from the meeting between Moshe and Hashem in this week’s parsha.
Hashem’s message to us through his interactions with Moshe is uplifting: Everyone, child and adult alike, has strengths and challenges that make us who we are.
Other than their home life, school is where the majority of children spend the majority of their day. School is their “job” so to speak.
Yet, unlike adults, they cannot choose whether to stay or go get another one. And most educational settings do not push the educator to “ask” the child how they learn best by observing and trying different approaches.
This must change. Schools must take the time to teach each child according to his/her own path.
Because when we meet others where they are and empower them to succeed, that’s when true redemption happens — for the child and for our world.