“Go to Pharaoh as he is coming out of the water” Exodus 7:15


On meeting Moses, it is difficult to be impressed by him. It is difficult to understand why God chose him for the crucial task of leading the people out of Israel. So far he has turned down this opportunity and only accepted it after being coerced and reassured by the presence of his brother Aaron

In Parashat Va’era, God offers Moses the ultimate lesson in being comfortable with a difficult situation: “Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is coming out of the water, and station yourself at the edge of the Nile, taking with you the rod that turned into a snake” (Exodus 7:15).

There is no reason given as to why Pharaoh might be swimming in the Nile, presumably alone, or it would not be that easy for Moses to approach him. Midrash Rabba offers an interesting interpretation: “Pharaoh only went to the water in the morning because he claimed that he was a god, and as such did not need to relieve himself. That is why he went to water very early in the morning” (Shemot Rabba 9:8). And thus, on meeting Pharaoh in this situation, Moses was able to realise that he was nothing more than a human being and his equal.

We seem to need constantly to put individuals on a pedestal. As a result, we are intimidated by them, even fear them, and on occasion, will find it difficult to acknowledge their faults and reprimand them. By doing so, we ultimately underline our weaknesses, and forget how strong and worthy we really are.

In addition, through the encounter between Moses and Pharaoh, we are reminded of the need to maintain humility and remain aware of our strength. By encouraging Moses to go and seek out Pharaoh when he does, God is placing Moses in a position of strength.

Surely, Pharaoh might have felt uncomfortable being surprised in a compromising situation for a man of his stature. Therefore, God creates a situation in which God knows that a person’s integrity will be challenged

A leader is not so simply because of what people think of him or her but also, and foremost, because of the way he or she treats others, particularly those considered as adversaries. It is easy to be kind and considerate to those we hold dear, to those who we feel deserve our support and our encouragements. It is much more difficult and challenging to ensure that we remain ethical in our dealings with those whom we fear or dislike, for that is when we are the strongest.

Rabbi Celia Surget

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