Parshat Shemot From Southern Region NCSY

Posted on July 21, 2008

The middle third of this week’s parsha, Shemos, features a conversation between the two most important characters in the Torah: Hashem and Moshe. This conversation is incredible in many ways, but the aspect I will focus on is the first set of questions that Moshe asked Hashem and Hashem’s response (pasukim 11-12). Moshe first asks “Who am I to go to Pharaoh?” He is answered very strangely by G-d: “I shall be with you.” The obvious question that a person asks is how the response answers the question; at first glance it seems not to.

Hashem knew that Moshe was so humble that he could not envision himself as the leader of the Jewish people. The other question asked by Moshe is “[Who am I] that I should take B’nei Yisroel out of Egypt?” G-d’s Response is once again rather cryptic: “When you take the people out of Egypt, you will worship Hashem on this mountain.” To understand this, you must have an additional piece of information that Rashi gives, that the mountain on which Moshe saw the burning bush is also the mountain on which the Jewish people received the Torah, Har Sinai.

The answers to the two questions posed are really two aspects of the same idea, that Moshe throughout his life saw himself only as a messenger of G-d’s will, not a separate being who leads the Jewish people. When G-d says “I shall be with you,” He is telling Moshe that he is a messenger and that it is G-d who is telling Pharaoh that his people must be freed. The second question, that of Moshe’s fitness to bring the people out of the land, is also answered by this first response to Moshe, so what is the second answer saying? Moshe, the quintessential model of humility, believes that the Jews will not believe him and will abandon him because they will not believe that he speaks for Hashem. This is answered by the second answer, that when the Jews are given the Torah at Har Sinai they will hear G-d’s voice and will know that Moshe is their leader.