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The early chapters in the book of Shemot include an interesting passage pertaining to giving instructions or teaching.

When Moshe, in Shemot Chapter 3, encounters God for the very first time at the burning bush, Moshe is informed of God’s plan to free the children of Israel from their enslavement in Egypt. Following a back and forth between God and Moshe in which the latter finds endless reasons why he should not be the one to address Pharaoh or the people of Israel,  God tries to assuage Moshe.

“So now go! I myself will be there with your mouth and will instruct you as to what you are to speak,” (Shemot 4:12) and again, “You [Moshe] shall speak to him [Aaron] you shall put the words in his mouth. I myself will be there with your mouth and with his mouth and will instruct you as to what you shall do” (Shemot 4:15, Everett Fox translation).

In both verses the verb le’horot − to teach or instruct − is used. In both cases it is God who gives the instructions, and God is the one who will determine what will come out of the mouths of Moshe and Aharon. But Moshe is given a central role too in second verse. He is the one to put words in Aharon’s mouth. 

It is clear that God expects more from Moshe.

From an educational point of view what is happening here? While at first Moshe is to simply repeat verbatim what God tells him, the Torah continues, “And he [Aaron] shall speak for you to the people. Thus he shall serve as your spokesman, with you playing the role of God to him” (Shemot 4:16, JPS translation)   The same role is conferred upon Moshe in a later chapter, where Moshe plays the role of God for Pharaoh, and in both cases Onkelos clarifies this difficult verse by translating it as: “You shall be a Rav/teacher for him.”

This short passage illustrates the rapid progression of Moshe from a mouthpiece for God to a teacher for Aharon.

In human terms, “being given words to say” could be the equivalent of acquiring knowledge: reading, listening, and absorbing. When enough knowledge has been accumulated the difficult question is: “How do I impart this information to others?” 

Unlike Moshe we are not privileged to have God as teacher, yet we may aspire to find a teacher like Moshe to guide, inspire and teach us how to become transmitters of our acquired knowledge.


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Image credit: Moses by Herman Wilhelm Bissen - Copenhagen / commons.wikimedia.org

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