am i ready to teach?

September 14, 2021, Maaleh Adumim, Israel

"Who am I?" Moshe says at the scene of the Burning Bush.   (Exodus, Chapter 3)

Moshe was a shepherd, he was tending Jethro's flocs and led them to the desert, here Moshe would encounter God and the phenomena of the Burning Bush, the bush that burns but is not consumed. Perhaps this is a hint to our future, as the Romans would set our temple on fire, as the Church would burn so many Jews alive at the stake, as so many marauding enemies would set the Jewish villages on fire, as the Nazis would force the Jews into barns and synagogues and set them on fire, so many massacres, and yet, we live. Perhaps we are the Burning Bush that no matter how much fire is upon us, we still are not consumed, we still live. Our enemies call us Der Ewige Jude, the Eternal Jew. This is vision that God showed Moshe, it's true meaning perhaps is left for us to ponder.

In the desert, Moshe faces this unusual phenomenon. The Hebrew word for desert is Midbar, the Hebrew word for speaks is Medaber, we say that if you listen closely the desert will speak to you. 

Moshe's life is about to be changed for ever. God has chosen him for leadership. Many feel that leadership is a great honor, they will run for office, hire a marketing team, hire leaders of Organized Crime, stuff the ballots, anything to be a "leader". But Moshe our teacher knows better; Leadership is very difficult. And so he turns down God's offer. "And Moshe said to God, who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt?" (verse 11)  Who I am that I should speak with kings? (as explained by Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki of France, 11th century).

God assures Moshe that he will not be alone, that God will guide him and help him. But Moshe is still not sure. Am I ready to lead?

Further on Moshe does not give up and explains that he is not a man of words, he is not eloquent and in fact has a speech impairment. "And Moshe said to God, I am not an eloquent man, neither yesterday nor the day before, nor since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."  (Chapter 4, 10)

I hear this all the time; am I ready to teach, for to teach is to be a leader. Many students hesitate; perhaps no one will listen to me, I am not a gifted speaker, Who am !?? What if I have a physical handicap? What if I am not a public speaker?

God is Moshe's teacher and he assures him, Who is it that gave man a mouth? Who makes man dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore GO and I will be with your mouth and I will guide you how to reach them, and what to say"(Exodus, Chapter 4, verses 11 - 12)

Moshe answers, "send in the hand that you shall send" (13) i.e. Whatever!

God was not pleased with this attitude. Moshe clearly did not want the job of teacher/leader/redeemer.

There is a great deal we can learn from this encounter and the life of Moshe who is known to us throughout the generation as 'Moshe Rabeinu', Moshe our Teacher. Moshe the quiet Shepard tending his sheep, Moshe who would rather be left out of the public light, Moshe who had a speech impediment, this Moshe became the ultimate teacher.

Often we do not feel ready for the task at hand. We do not feel worthy, we ask, "Who am I?" but remember you are not alone, your teacher is with you, he has chosen you as a teacher to carry on the message, that should mean a great deal to you. And remember that Moshe too, the greatest of them all, he too felt a lack of confidence, he too felt unworthy. So you are in good company.

Books by Moshe Katz

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