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Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

This week’s Torah portion not only begins the book of Shemot, Exodus, but also the calling of Moses to his all-important task of delivering the Children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. We would think that since Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s royal house he would realize that he was the most qualified person to confront the King of Egypt and lead a group of slaves to their freedom. But when God confronted him at the burning bush, Moses replied with anything less than confidence, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). In other words, “What qualifies me to lead these people out from under Pharaoh’s hand?” Moses didn’t feel that he had the ability to accomplish what God had called him to do.

Similar instances occur among the prophets of Israel when they do not feel confident that they have the courage or skill to do what Hashem has instructed them. For instance, when the LORD tells Samuel that He has rejected Saul as king because of his wickedness, and that he should go to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king, Samuel responds by saying, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me” (1 Samuel 16:2). Samuel knew that Saul would try to kill him because of jealousy. But God gave Samuel a plan and he obeyed. 

Elijah, after defeating and slaughtering the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, fled to the wilderness when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him as he had killed her false prophets. Even though God had just used him to do something bold and amazing, Elijah became afraid and gave in to that fear:

But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)



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