This week’s Parsha, Shemos, is the first portion of the second book of the Torah (which is also named Shemos). It tells us some of Moshe Rabbenu’s story, and contains a powerful lesson which transforms Moshe from a seemingly untouchable figure to a relateable leader who can teach us all a lesson in faith and the power of G-d. Moshe Rabbenu was born in a terrible time, a time when Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew boys were killed. Born three months premature, his mother hid him until he was just a few months old, when he was set to float on the Nile in a reed basket. Miraculously, he was adopted by the daughter of the very same Pharaoh who ordered his death, and grew up with her.
Spiritually, this turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing, and life in Mitzrayim had an undesirable effect upon Moshe Rabbenu. As time passed, Pharaoh became more and more hateful towards the Jewish people, and one day, Moshe Rabbenu experienced an Egyptian slavedriver trying to kill his Hebrew slave. Moshe struck the Egyptian and killed him. When he found out that others had witnessed this deed, he was faced with no choice but to flee. Naturally, this was a difficult step, as Moshe had grown accustomed to a life of luxury which he would have to leave behind. But he fled, and there, the true “journey” began.
Moshe’s personal exodus led to the famous encounter with the burning bush in which G-d spoke directly to him and told him that it was he- Moshe Rabbenu- who would lead the Israelites out of Mitzrayim, and free them from the bonds of slavery. And it would all begin with him approaching Pharaoh. Needless to say, Moshe Rabbenu, though in awe of G-d, was dubious. He had a speech impendiment and found speaking to anyone a major hurdle- let alone the Pharaoh who had enslaved his people. But when Moshe raised these concerns, G-d answered them simply, by reminding Moshe that it was not he who would speak, but rather G-d Himself, through Moshe Rabbenu. And thus, the Israelite with a speech impendiment took it upon himself to beg the Pharaoh to let his people go.
In a way, this week’s Parsha is all about obstacles. Moshe faced numerous obstacles, from his troubled beginning, to fleeing Egypt, and the situation with Pharaoh which followed. And yet he, despite all the physical and spiritual challenges, became the leader of the Jewish people; a success story if there ever was one. There’s a simple message here: have faith and persevere. But there’s also a more complex one. When Hashem gave Moshe the task of begging Pharaoh for emancipation, He knew about Moshe Rabbenu’s issues. Seemingly, he was the least likely candidate for the job! And yet this is exactly what makes the story so compelling, so relatable, so important.
When G-d gives us tasks, sometimes we don’t understand them. When He puts obstacles in our way, we often loathe them. We don’t- we can’t- understand why He gave us such difficult mitzvos to keep. We don’t understand why He tells us not to work on shabbes, then puts us in a situation where we struggle to pay our mortgages. But we find ourselves in these situations, and, surprisingly, it’s there that we learn our biggest lessons, and shape our lives and the lives of those around us. Begging Pharaoh to release the Jewish people was the most important thing Moshe Arab bent would ever do. But it was often the hardest. When we encounter these momrnyd in life, we need to take the initiative and do what Moshe did; have emunah, and persevere.