Optimism or Delusion
The famous story of Pharaoh testing Moshe’s worldly ambition by placing coal and gold in front of him and having an angel’s hand guide Moshe hand towards picking up the coals leaving him with a scarred mouth is baffling to me. Why would Hashem do that to Moshe?
Moshe, the future leader of the Jewish people needed effective communication skills, and having Moshe suffer a lifelong speech impediment is not the recipe for an effective leader.
What should have happened? Anything else besides Moshe suffering a speech impediment.
The same angel that guided Moshe’s hand towards the coals could have also made sure that he didn’t put his hand in his mouth. Alternatively, Hashem could have made a miracle that Moshe’s hand didn’t get burnt. But why take away the most needed form of communication skills from the future leader of the Jewish people?
The answer may be that we are looking at this story and our perspective of the way Hashem treats us from a completely wrong perspective. When bad things happen to us, we tend to focus on the bad and the bad only. For example, when we miss the bus, stain our shirt, or get sick, we tend to spend time focusing on that specific bad event and don’t seem to see past it. We do not seem to factor in that the negative that happened to us, is possibly a positive thing, in the greater picture of this little thing called life.
Perhaps we missed the bus because Hashem wants us to slow down and rethink if we really needed to go to that destination in the first place. Or tragedy may happen within a family to bring family members closer together. Or we get sick and stuck at home, so that we can work on our relationships with those around us. Either way, if we genuinely believe that Hashem wants the best life for us, we have to look at the things he does to us in a wider context.
Now getting back to our original question of why Hashem caused Moshe to have a speech impediment; maybe it was to teach Moshe the character of a leader, as we know the story of how Moshe chased after a single lamb from an entire herd. If he had eloquent speech, maybe he’d be out on tour giving speeches, instead of working on his sensitivity towards others.
Or maybe it was so that he would be forced to get closer to his brother Aron, his orator to the nation and a great leader in his own right, who had so much to teach Moshe in the category of middot.
So, it’s not that Moshe’s speech impediment caused him to be a less effective leader. Exactly the opposite. The speech impediment forced him to work on his other qualifications to formally make him an effective leader!
Using this understanding, the concept of “Sheva Yipol Tzadik Vikum” (Translation: A Tzadik/Great Person falls 7 times and gets up) makes perfect sense. If that person is such a Tzadik, why is he falling down? Everybody falls and everybody makes mistakes. Yet a Tzadik uses that falling as an opportunity for growth, to get up stronger than before. He learns why he fell and implements safeguards that it will not happen again. It’s through the falling and getting up that separates him from the ordinary person and makes him into extraordinary Tzadik.
Anecdotally, when I was in 12th grade, I tried to use the concept of Sheva Yipol Tzadik Vikum to explain to someone why I got thrown out of the yeshiva dormitory for bringing a TV inside. It did not work and I’m still not sure why.
In the times of global uncertainty, I am not delusional in thinking that everything bad that happens around us is a good thing. But what I am saying is that bad things must be taken in context of the overall picture and a “bad” thing that happens to us is a possible springboard for growth in other areas of our life.
And who knows…. if I follow my own advice, in a few years, maybe people will be calling me Tzvi Rabbenu.