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Va'era

“God said to Moses: ‘Behold I have placed you as a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your prophet” Exodus 7:1

    Ramban offers a compelling explanation for the perplexing question of what it means for God to turn Moses into a god.


    In response to Moses’s earlier complaint that he is not a man of words, God commands both Moses and Aaron to speak to Pharaoh. This, in Ramban’s reading, is understood by Moses to mean that they would stand together, with but one of them speaking. 


    And so Moses is surprised when God appears to revert to the original plan, commanding Moses alone to address Pharaoh (6:29). At this point, Moses repeats, “I am of uncircumcised lips, how will Pharaoh listen to me?” (6:30).


    God’s answer, that Moses will be a god to Pharaoh and Aaron will be his prophet, is now explained by Ramban to mean: “you will charge Aaron with my messages, without Pharaoh hearing you. Aaron will act as your agent and communicate your words, just as God charges the prophet to communicate and castigate.”


    Moses is godlike in that he will not communicate directly with Pharaoh but will rather employ Aaron as intermediary, just as God communicates through a prophet. 


    Is it simple shyness that explains Moses’s fear of speech? Ramban’s answer hints it may also be a terror of misrepresenting or trivialising the depth of his encounter with God.


    For, as the literary scholar George Steiner has written, every translation is an interpretation. And so to assuage Moses’s concern, God provides him with the smallest and most trustworthy of audiences, Aaron, who in turn will be charged with further dissemination.


    Far from his lack of speaking ability being the object of mockery, Moses stands silent as a god before Pharaoh, as Aaron prophesies, “Send forth My people!”
     

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