Saturday, January 9, 2010

Moses's "Heavy Tongue," Parshat Shavua, Weekly Torah Portion, Shemot, Exodus

For quite a few years on Parashat Shemot, and other occasions when it seems relevant, I tell my take on what Moses meant in his excuse that he can't lead the Jewish People.

This Shabbat we were away in Tel Aviv (more about that in future posts G-d willing,) so I wasn't at my weekly Torah Class and didn't get to remind everyone what Moshe Rabbeinu probably may have meant.

Of course, I'm projecting my own feelings and experience, but I think that Moses had a princely Egyptian accent and knew that the Jewish slaves wouldn't accept him as their leader because of it.  To fit into the royal household he was probably given elocution lessons to erase the accent he picked up at the "Jewish wetnurse's" home, his biological family.

There are lots of very respectable Jewish commentaries saying how the Jewish People had kept language, names etc, and in the parsha we read that Yitro's daughters mistake Moshe for an Egyptian.  It could be because of his accent!


Unknown said...

As long as Moshe Rabbeinu gave reasons, Hashem answered him. One of the reasons has an interesting response.

When Moshe rabbeinu complained that he was "heavy" of speech, Hashem answered, "Who made people able to speak?" This does not mean that Hashem will "cure" his speech defect, it means that He deliberately chose him because of his speech defect. No one would be able to claim that he succeeded by being a master orator. He was a shepherd who had not dealt with the diplomatic world since he had arrived in Midyan. He may have received "princely" training as a child, but consider how long he must have been away from that world, since he was now 80 years old.

Batya said...

I'm here in Israel almost 40 years with an awful accent Think of Abba Eben and Golda Meir's accents. G-d may have wanted Moshe to want Aaron to work with him.

Unknown said...

I should also point out that if Moshe still had an upper class Egyptian accent, he would not have been afraid that P'aro would not listen to him. As the examples that you gave point out, the accent of one's youth can be kept for life.

I know of someone who went on Aliyah at about 15. A year or two later, he spoke English with a Hebrew accent. My mother spoke Hebrew fluently (with a minimal) after having lived in Mandate Palestine as a teenager and returned to the United States just before World War II.

I know of others who never lost their Yiddish accent after many years in the United States.

Each person is different. In any case, would not Aharon have had more of an accent than Moshe (though Moshe may have spoken with a Midianite accent by then and not an "upper class" Hebrew).

Also consider the difference between a child's vocabulary and a leadr's vocabulary. Moshe was sent to the palace when he was wenaed and Aharon had spent his life studying and leading the Jewish people.

Actually, some meforshim say that Hashem had to send Moshe because Bnai Yisrael would never have accepted someone who had grown up with them. Moshe still had trouble in any case.

YC said...

1) "Chaved"/Heavy can be a theme. Moshe speech, Paroh's heart, Moshe's hands

2) He was the most humble, and he was making excuses to get out of the job (an act of humility as well)

3) As has been pointed out God's answer points an answer. But could mean dont tell Me who can speak

4) Back to my first point.
All three examples
Moshe's speech- you can if you want to (Moshe did not want to (or has been said God wanted Aharon involved))
Paroh's Heart- he could have turned to God if he wanted to (at least early on)
Moshe's hands the most obvious - reminding the people to look up, count on What Counts.

Batya said...

Sabba Hillel, I think that Moshe never felt fully comfortable in either society, Jewish and Egyptian. He had more trouble and confidence with Bnai Yisrael.

yc, interesting parallel with the hands.

YC said...

I like that: Moshe as Lonely Man of Faith

Not Hebrew bc raised in Batya's home (Medrash or based on 1 Divre Hayamim 4:18- if anyone can unpack that for me)

Not Egyptian - nursed and raised by Yocheved for 3-5 yrs

Married a Midyanite: separated from her bc of his job

Strong counselor from land he spent so much time and his father-in-law-Yitro: once he left (Behaloscha) all feel apart

Aharon- did their relationship rupture post Egel: see Behaloshca (knows as Miriam story), Achri Mot (who should eat the meat)

Yehosua and Aharon see to be it

Except God

Batya said...

YC, lots of food for thought. And that just shows why Parshat shavua is never boring though we go over the same text every year.