Ohr Hachayim Exodus: Shmot
The Savior’s Speech
“Be a craftsman in speech that thou mayest be strong, for the strength of one is the tongue, and speech is mightier than all fighting.”
Maxims of Ptahhotep, 3400 B.C.
In the movie, “The King’s Speech,” there is a painfully poignant scene when the prince has to address the nation on public radio. He stutters horribly to his eternal shame. It is hard to imagine a more embarrassing scenario.
It is no wonder then, that Moses, apparently also saddled with speech impairment, begs God not to send him as His delegate to Pharaoh and the Jewish nation. God gives Moses an interesting answer:
“And the Lord said unto him: ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I the Lord?” Genesis 4:11
The Ohr Hachayim posits that God is telling Moses that not only does He know that Moses has this handicap, but that it was given to Moses on purpose. And because of this handicap He wishes Moses to overcome it and become the greatest orator in Jewish tradition.
The Ohr Hachayim gives two possible endings to Moses’ speech impediment. One is that thanks to God’s intervention, Moses overcame the physical impediment and was able to speak clearly once he had to.
The other, perhaps more interesting possibility, is that Moses gave all of his speeches while still having some sort of speech defect. God apparently wanting to make a point: that you don’t need to be perfect in every single trait in order to fulfill God’s commands. Even our great teacher Moses, whose main physical function was to speak, did so with a handicap – and did it better than anybody else.
May we appreciate the health we have, and not be bitter over the God-given impairments.
To Dr. Anthony Beukas, my speech professor at Yeshiva University. I still remember some of his lessons.