Vaera 5783 – FUD

By: Michael Carr

Parsha Vaera brings to mind the idea of FUD. It’s the acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. This idea was probably more pervasive than ‘hope’ for getting the Israelite slaves out of Egypt. 

Fear of a autocratic and stubborn pharaoh who imposed his autocratic rule daily created uncertainty and doubt about a meaningful life for Israelite slaves. The Israelite slaves lived with fear everyday uncertain of punishments to be imposed upon them by Pharaohs minions. Of course doubt for all Israelite slaves was never in short supply.

Pharaoh did not consider uncertainty because he did not believe that there was anything to fear over his rule of law and order. In fact he probably believed he was mightier than a supposed G-d who wanted him to free all Israelite slaves. He perhaps saw his entire life as dictator over Egypt as HIS freedom. Janis Joplin said it best, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”.  Though as we know from that prolific part-time psychologist Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Vaera also presents us with information about Moses’ older brother Aaron – who might be referred to as ‘the wingman’.

Through his relationship with and belief in THE one G-d, Moses actually became a fearless leader and prophet.  His uncertainty and doubt were evident however when it came to his stutter. Why would anyone including Pharaoh or the Israelite slaves, listen to a leader that could not express himself clearly?

There are at least 5 moments where Moses expresses his uncertainty and doubt to G-d about his in-ablity to lead the Israelites to freedom and essentially is asking G-d for a pass:

‘I’m not good enough’ – “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” -Exodus 3:11

‘I don’t have all the answers’ – “Then Moses said to G-d, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” -Exodus 3:13 

‘People won’t believe me’“Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘G-d has not appeared to you.’ ” -Exodus 4:1  

‘I’m a terrible public speaker’ – “Then Moses said to G-d, “….I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” -Exodus 4:10 

‘Anyone but me’ (I’m not qualified) – “…please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” -Exodus 4:13   

The final statement in Deuteronomy is ‘there would never be another prophet like Moses’. It sums up a widely held belief that indeed he was unlike other prophets that came before or after his legacy.

Also consider:

-Moses spoke with G-d more than any other person in Jewish history.
-Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom.
-Moses receives the 10 commandments (published & is later world- wide distributed as the “5 books of Moses”) on Mount Sinai. So why in today’s parsha Vaera does Aaron carry out G-d’s first three plagues upon Pharaoh and Egypt: blood, frogs and lice?

Similar to Moses, Aaron did not think he was worthy and was uncertain of imposing G-d’s harsh penalties upon Pharaoh. He did not have the same relationship with G-d that Moses did however he did respect and believe in the ‘one G-d’.

Can any of us imagine persuading a guy (Pharaoh) who was referred to as ‘Lord of the Two Lands’ (ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt) because he alone owned all of the land, made laws, collected taxes, and defended Egypt against foreigners to let our people go?

A daunting task for sure! 

In your lifetime have YOU ever doubted yourself in spite of your knowledge, skills or support network? Have you ever had fear of the unknown enough to honestly express your uncertainties?

It was an uncertain time for everyone – including of course the Israelite slaves.

The ability to persuade Israelite slaves of the belief in one G-d was perhaps more important to G-d than persuading Pharaoh of G-d’s power as we read further in Exodus. So how did the majority of the slaves overcome their doubts?

It was a collaborative team effort with G-d, Moses and Aaron that began with Aaron engaging the Pharaoh and being told ‘no- I will not let your people go’. The rest as they say is, well, history.

Inspiration can come from many places to help us overcome our fear, uncertainty and doubts. Sometimes we may need to reach out to those who have information, experience and beliefs that can ‘get the ball rolling’. 

Finally, one might say that the ‘right persistence’ ultimately set us free…
Good Shabbos!