Parshat Vaera by Dyonna Ginsburg


This week’s parsha opens with G-d asking Moshe to tell the Jewish People that He is going to redeem them and bring them to the Promised Land.


Dutifully obeying, Moshe conveys this majestic message, presumably in an attempt to inspire the people to action.  But, Moshe’s words fall on deaf ears.  The Israelites, caught in the struggle for daily survival, were unable to appreciate a prophecy of epic proportions – “??? ???? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ???”.


Undeterred, G-d proposes a shift in strategy.  Instead of encouraging Moshe to inspire a bottom-up, protest movement, He tells him to go to Pharaoh and employ top-down, lobbying efforts.   Moshe, discouraged by his previous failed attempt to convey G-d’s historic promise, says: “?? ??? ????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ???? ???? ??? ??????”


While at first glance, Moshe’s logic appears sound, upon deeper introspection, his reasoning seems faulty.  Just because Moshe was unsuccessful in inspiring the Jewish People does not mean that he will be unsuccessful in high-level lobbying.  On the contrary, perhaps the reason why people refused to listen to him – Moshe grew up in the lap of luxury, walked the corridors of power, and never experienced the hardships of slavery – was precisely why Pharaoh would be predisposed to listen?!


The Sfat Emet (1847-1905) explains why Moshe’s logic was nevertheless correct.  Moshe intuited that, in order for a leader to be effective, he must have the people’s support.   It is not enough for him to be skilled in diplomacy.  A leader without the backing of the masses is rendered speechless – ??? ?????? – even if smooth talk rolls off his tongue.  Top-down lobbying efforts must be combined with bottom-up support in order to effect meaningful change.


For this reason, G-d responds to Moshe’s argument by commanding both Moshe and Aharon to speak to both the Jewish People and Pharaoh – “????? ?’ ?? ??? ??? ????? ????? ?? ??? ????? ??? ????”.  Moshe, prince of Egypt, has to be accompanied by Aharon, man of the people.  If Moshe were to go to Pharaoh by himself, he would be perceived as a lone figure rather than a leader.  If Aharon were to speak to the Jewish People by himself, his words would lack the potency of a person close to power.  It is only when Moshe and Aharon speak together – combining top-down and bottom-up efforts – that G-d’s message can resonate.


People often ask: How can we effect change in society?  How can we ensure that our leaders are in tune with the people and simultaneously are effective on the national and international arenas?  The answer lies in this week’s parsha.  Change must take place both in the hallways of power and on the streets.  It must take place in the hearts, minds and actions of our leaders. But equally importantly, in the hearts, minds and actions of average people around the world.