Deuteronomy begins with the statement, Hoyil Moshe Baer et Hatorah Hazeh, explaining that Moses explicated a Torah document in his last month of life, reviewing it and reflecting upon its meaning. Interestingly, the commentator Nachalat Tzi notes that the word "Baer" should really be the infinitive of "to explicate," leading to a rich additional meaning: that Moses himself had become a "be'er," a wellspring–a Maayan mitgaber, an everflowing fountain of understanding and insight into the profundity of Torah and a fountain to express it to the people.
Look at how far Moses had come, from a person who stuttered and felt he couldn't communicate! He actually exhibits that fear of public speaking. Being summoned by God himself at the burning bush, for most of us, would have been sufficient inspiration. But Moses argues with God, "God, please send someone else..." While here, in Deuteronomy, we see a Moses who is actually a co-author of the fifth book of the Torah, which is the written transcript of his explanatory comments before the people in his last month of life. It makes us ponder that sometimes it's very important to break through perceived limitations no matter how much we hold on to them.
We sometimes have no choice. There are things that make us uncomfortable and situations we avoid. We have notions of our own limitations and we proceed in life pretty much trying to avoid them. We cannot but take them into account. Yet that does not mean that we should be defined by them and ruled by them.
Actually we have words for this, which is a bit of psychobabble, but we call them our fears and our phobias and our "I'd rather nots." An internet site that Google brought me to tells of the six most common of phobias. I'll stop at six because on the seventh we rest! The first most common phobia is mysophobia, the fear of germs. People who succumb to it look like they have OCD, but actually they just have mysophobia. The second most common phobia is pteramahamophobia, or fear of flying. Most of these folks cannot be coaxed onto a plane for even the most important family reunions. Then there is the socialphobic, who has a fear of social gatherings and especially public speaking. Such folks are found inside their homes most of the time. There is the tryptanophobic, the one who fears doctors appointments and especially needles, and the astarophobic who fears thunderstorms. I had a dog like that once, which was so phobic that it ran under the bed, shaking, during thunderstorms. Finally, we end on the six most common of phobias–the cynophobic, who fears man's best friend, the family dog.
Often, people who have severe manifestations of these phobias are doomed to being limited by them, preferring not to confront them. But most of us are somewhere in the more midrange of the spectrum and need, bluntly, the "courage to confront them." Scientists have shown that many of these conditions can be cured by the method of successive approximation–the facing of lesser to eventually more intense examples of the phobia. For instance, with a fear of snakes, folks start with stuffed animal snakes, then eventually rubber ones, and then finally the courageous at heart are ready to encounter and hold a boa constrictor. A willing heart can hopefully one day master fear and reluctance.
Moses is a case in point. This was a guy who didn't like speaking in public. "God," he said numerous times, "I am slow of speech, I stutter, I am heavy of tongue." God's responds with, "Take Aaron with you and he will speak for you." Moses reluctantly agrees and then grows into the job. First he has Aaron as a spokesman, then he lets Aaron hold and use his rod while Moses himself speaks, then Moses has the rod and speaks without Aaron there, and then he speaks without the rod and commands respect. During the plague of locusts, he not only speaks, but by darkness his rod touches heaven. Moses becomes not only great in the eyes of the Hebrews, but he is eventually more greatly respected by the Egyptians than even their Pharaoh. By the time of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses cannot help but wax eloquent. He's a cross between Shakespeare and Churchill. Two-thirds of the Book is Moses's compelling oratory. He cannot stop talking and motivating.
Heres a poem I wrote, inspired by this evolution:
Moses at first was so reticent
he claimed that he couldn't speak.
He hemmed and he hawed, how could he present?
He had no charisma or cheek.
God said 'enough, Aaron's your mouthpiece.
I'll tell him just the right words to say.
Just take this miracle rod at least
when to Pharaoh the visit you pay.
Moses agrees but soon we shall see
that Aaron's the one with the rod.
Moses is talking quite capably
a switcheroo that is quite odd.
Soon Aaron is along for the ride;
the staff it's not mentioned at all.
And by the fifth plague Aaron's not by his side,
Moses as leader stands tall.
By locusts Moses is raising his staff,
by darkness his hand touches the sky.
At the start, sure he's nervous, his speech full of gaffes
and now get a load of this guy!
At first Moses stutters and mutters,
for talking he hasn't the bent.
But by the fifth book, he elegantly utters,
he's compelling and eloquent.
It gets us thinking, does it not bro,
that our potential we often abort,
when we limit ourselves by saying "no"
when at times we are selling ourselves short.
Learn from Moses that sometimes hard toil
is the way to excel and exceed.
Low expectations are so often our foil
they stop us in way's we'd succeed.
To be honest to ourselves is to admit that we can't do everything well. But our self-imposed limitations so often keep us from even trying. May all of us take stock of our assumed and ingrained limitations. Perhaps we will ask, "Is it really so," and then work on these phobias and limitations. May we, like Moses, blossom into something we never knew we could be, by trying and by working at our phobias, foibles and false assumptions, and let us say, Amen.