parsha of the week

Moshe, Aharon teamwork: Formula for Redemption


Bear with me as I make a case here.

Shmot 4:14-16: After giving a number of excuses for why he should not be the Deliverer, including that he is uncomfortable with his own speech-abilities, G-d tells Moshe that his brother Aharon is one who can speak. “I will be with your mouth and with his mouth.” Aharon’s job will be to speak to the nation [of Israel] to convince them of Moshe’s divine assignment, as Aharon “will be your mouth, and you will be a G-d to him” because you will be telling him what to say.

Shmot 4:28-31: Moshe tells Aharon all that G-d said, as well as of the signs that were to prove his divine mission. They went to the elders of Israel, to whom Aharon then spoke, and then “he” [who?] did the signs before the people. The people accepted the words and signs as presented and believed G-d had sent a deliverer.

Shmot 5:1-4: Moshe and Aharon came and “they” spoke to Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave. Pharaoh refused, and then “they” said they were called by G-d. Pharaoh said to “them,” “Why, Moshe and Aharon, are you interrupting the people from their work?”

Shmot 5:19-22: The people are upset at both Moshe and Aharon for causing their labor to be increased. Moshe turns to G-d and says, “Why did you send me? Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, it has only been bad for this nation.”

Shmot 6:2-9 – G-d speaks to Moshe, and tells him of the plan for exodus. In verse 9, Moshe tells it to the Israelites, who do not listen to Moshe on account of their shortness of breath from their hard labor.

6:12: Moshe notes that the Israelites don’t listen to him, how will Pharaoh?

6:13: Moshe and Aharon are instructed [to take a new strategy?] to the Israelites and to Pharaoh in order to get the exodus process rolling.

After giving the lineage of the tribes of Reuven, Shimon and Levi to show us where Aharon and Moshe come from, we are told that Moshe and Aharon are the ones who speak to Pharaoh (6:26-28)

In 6:29 Moshe is told [alone] to speak to Pharaoh.

Shmot 7:1-7: Moshe is to be a god to Pharaoh and Aharon will be Moshe’s prophet. “You [Moshe] will speak all I have commanded, and Aharon will speak to Pharaoh that he should send the Israelites out of his land. … Pharaoh will not listen to [both of] you. … Moshe and Aharon do as they are commanded. They are 83 and 80 when they speak with Pharaoh.”

Shmot 7:8-11: “When Pharaoh asks you to give a wonder, tell Aharon to toss his staff before Pharaoh and it will be a tannin.” Moshe and Aharon do it [do what?] and Aharon throws his staff before Pharaoh and company.”

To whom is Aharon supposed to speak? For whom is Moshe supposed to be a “god”? (compare 7:1 to 4:16) What does that even mean? What signs are for Israel? Who is supposed to perform them? What is the difference between an ot (sign) and a mofet (wonder)? Do Moshe and Aharon both speak before Pharaoh? Does one take more of a sideline role? Does Moshe feel that he was sent more than Aharon was sent? Meaning, why does he seem to ignore Aharon’s role in going to the king after the people are upset with both Moshe and Aharon?

In the beginning of our parsha it is clearly Moshe, and Moshe alone, who is speaking to the people, and they do not listen to him. What happened to Aharon being his prophet? And then 3 verses later Aharon is again charged with going to Pharaoh (6:13)? And then 16 verses later only Moshe is to speak to Pharaoh?

And why is Aharon’s staff thrown before Pharaoh if Pharaoh’s challenge was to trigger the staff trick? Pharaoh never says, “Give a wonder.”

Space does not allow for all these questions to be answered, but hopefully most will be covered through the following information.

At first an ot is for people who want to believe — the Israelites. A mofet is for Pharaoh, who does not believe. This strategy changes over time, and Pharaoh is subjected to both otot and moftim, because at times Pharaoh demonstrates a lack of belief in G-d, and at times he clearly believes in G-d but is either stubborn about letting his slaves leave or doesn’t care about what happens to his people.

And to answer all of the Aharon/Moshe questions, there is a simple solution. Aharon’s role is more complicated than Moshe’s. He is second fiddle to his brother, sometimes on the sidelines, but sometimes he is even more central than Moshe. At times he is the prime minister to the not-yet-impressive monarch, he is spokesman for the President, and sometimes he is chief of staff for the commander in chief.

To Moshe, Aharon is a confidante, trainer, confidence-builder, ready to step in when needed either to assist or to play his own role best. Moshe is a god to Aharon because he is G-d’s mouthpiece. But he is a god to Pharaoh, because he will dominate Pharaoh.

There are many layers to the tale of the exodus. But the layer that covers it is that no matter what roles are assigned to Moshe and Aharon in Egypt, they always demonstrate the utmost respect for each other. They are there for each other, despite the differences in role, and they support one another so that the job can get done.

Ego? Doesn’t exist. It’s about the destiny of the people, not the reputation of the leaders.

If only such a model would be followed today, redemption would surely be close at hand.