Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

Trust or Narcissism?

After being told by G-d to return to Egypt and command Pharaoh to release the Jews, Moses says:

‘Please G-d, I am not a man of words, also not since the day before yesterday, nor since You first spoke to Your servant; for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech.’ (4:10)

Is Moses telling G-d something He doesn’t already know? Moses was asking G-d the same type of question many people ask today. “If You knew I never could speak as a child, why didn’t You fix me? If You knew I would need to speak to the Jews and Egyptians, why haven’t You healed me already? If You can turn water into blood, my staff into a snake and have leprosy appear on my hand, why can’t You fix my speech? Why are You asking me to go to Egypt with a disability?”

What was G-d’s response?

Who makes a mouth for man, or who makes one mute or deaf or able to see or blind? Is it not I, G-d?” (4:11)

Just as the Almighty is the One who makes people talk, He can surely fix Moses’s impediment. How do we understand His answer?

We tend to think that when we pray and do that which we know to be right, everything will turn out as we would like. But that is not necessarily how G-d runs the world. I read the following story involving Zacharia Wallerstein, a Rabbi who was also an extremely successful entrepreneur. 

When it was discovered that my father had a tumor on his liver, a biopsy was scheduled to determine whether it was malignant or benign. The night before the procedure, as I sat in the hospital waiting room, Dr. Israel, who planned to perform the procedure, approached me with an idea. “The Talmud says that for the Almighty to make a public miracle, a person must have many merits. However, a private miracle is an easier ‘ask.’ I have an idea for you. I know a poor widow who is marrying off her daughter tomorrow and has no money. Perhaps if you pay for the wedding, that will serve as a zechut (merit) for your father. Maybe even if the tumor is malignant now, G-d will perform a private miracle and by tomorrow it will be benign.”

Hearing his suggestion, I immediately took out my checkbook and wrote out a check for the needed seven and a half thousand dollars. I didn’t tell my mother or brother; it was going to be my secret; G-d was going to do a miracle because I paid for this wedding.

The rest of the night, I thought to myself, “G-d, You are the best. You sent me a religious doctor and it happened to be that a poor girl needed money for her wedding.” Everything fits in my head perfectly. I was sure that tomorrow the tumor was going to be determined to be benign.

The next day, as they took the biopsy, my mother asked me why I didn’t look nervous. “G-d is taking care of this,” I said. Everything seemed perfect. But then the doctor returned with the worst news. “It is not only malignant, but also very aggressive. He only has three months to live.” I was shattered; everything was supposed to work out. What happened?

I realized that I had the same question as Moses. “G-d, why don’t you fix my mouth if I cannot speak?” (“G-d, why can’t You heal my father? I even gave generously to someone in need?”)

What was G-d’s answer to Moses? “I give a mouth that can talk, but I also give a mouth that cannot talk. I give eyes that can see, but I also give eyes that cannot see.” G-d’s message to Moses was that he will have a mouth that stutters, but I will be with you in your disability. You will not be able to talk as you would like—that is your perfection because that’s how I created you and it is necessary for you to fulfill your calling. Do you want Me to fix your mouth? If I do, you will not be able to carry out your life’s mission.

All our imperfections and disabilities have purpose and are meant to be used to reach our potential, and at the same time set an example for someone who is struggling with a similar challenge.

Do you trust G-d only when He does things as you want, when you want, and the way you want? That’s not trust, it’s narcissism. When one gives up self and is willing to see that there is a bigger and more beautiful vision of your life than you can imagine, and that you trust G-d as your guide, peace of mind and calmness will ensue. When the going gets rough, remember that the boy who seemed to be abandoned, disabled, constantly in danger and fought against by his own people, is the one who became the greatest Jewish leader of all time and an inspiration to millions of people from all religions and walks of life since then. He trusted G-d; so can we.

Good Shabbos