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   by Jacob Solomon

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In reply to G-d's call to Moses at the scene of the burning bush:

Moses said to G-d: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (3:11)

The Kli Yakar explains that Moses' response was an expression of utterly sincere humility.

Firstly, he believed that he himself was unworthy of appearing before Pharaoh. He was the humblest of all people (Num. 12:3). He did not believe that he would communicate as a serious representative of the Israelites: "I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech" (4:10). Pharaoh would see Moses' tendency to stammer and stutter as a sad reflection on the Israelites and worse, as a mockery of his royalty. It would damage the cause. Was there no-one among the Israelites who could present the request in a manner worthy of the court, as a silver-tongued orator?

And secondly Moses saw the good in the Israelites, effectively saying that so worthy a people as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob deserve a much better person to be their leader. How will they follow someone as lowly as I?

G-d did not refute Moses. Instead, he assured him with: "I will be with you" (3:12). The Kli Yakar explains that it was Moses' sincere humility that prompted that reply, in line with: G-d is "with the despondent and humble of spirit, reviving the spirit of the humble…" (Isaiah 57:15). This explanation illustrates a viewpoint of leadership according to Torah values. It is both the genuine awareness of one's own weaknesses and shortcomings and the respect for other people that creates the space for G-d's counsel to link with the soul of the human being. Thus it was precisely Moses' humility that made it possible and favorable for G-d to work through him.

This idea may be developed further. The reality of the spiritually well-developed and continually progressing individual is an increasing awareness of personal shortcomings in life's work of striving to perfection. The more you know, the more you know that you don't know. The more you understand, the more you are aware of what you don't understand. The closer you are to the Source of All Things, the more you are aware of what has not yet spiritually been achieved. Greater personal self-awareness means becoming increasingly self-critical, putting what would appear to others as the tiniest error (and sometimes not even that) under a high-powered microscope. In addition, being pre-occupied with one's self-improvement can also blind one to the faults of others. Thus the arrival into this state of humility: harsh self-criticism on one hand and seeing the good in others on the other hand are precisely the two qualities for leadership: in this case directing the transformation of the Israelites from individual slaves into 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (19:6).

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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