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    Was Moses a speaker? – D’varim

    Moses speaks to the Israelites, engraving by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

    The opening of the sidra displays Moses as an orator: “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel”. He addressed Israel with wonderful phrases, full of power and poetry.

    Yet when it came to pleading with the Egyptian king to let the Israelites go, this same Moses had been so tongue-tied, so little “a man of words” (Ex. 4:10) that Aaron needed to speak for him.

    Was it time and experience that made Moses a speaker? Or is Rashbam right in his commentary on Parashat Sh’mot that Moses actually did not have a speech defect at all, or lack fluency in words?

    Rashbam argues that it was just that Moses did not want to be known as a mere word-spinner but as a worker. The evidence is that when necessary, as here in Parashat D’varim, he was quite capable of speaking with great effectiveness. What was in Moses’ mind was that he did not want people to think that simply to be a speaker makes a person a leader.

    So right was he that the whole of history proves his point. Even if we only look at our own generation we see how much the bewitching power of words can represent a great danger.

    Speakers can get carried away with their own verbosity and imagine that they have achieved great things when in fact all they have done is to give speeches.

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