Voices of Faith offers perspectives from religion columnists. This week’s question: What advice would you have given Moses?
A modern approach
The Rev. Stephen D. Jones, First Baptist Church, Kansas City: It’s a difficult question to take seriously, giving advice to Moses! Not only the distance of thousands of years but such a different age. So why not answer the question as a modern person?
Get a speech therapist: “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent … I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” A few sessions with a speech therapist and whatever impediments Moses faced could likely be overcome.
Get an assertiveness trainer: “O my Lord, please send someone else.” An assertiveness trainer would help Moses realize that when opportunity knocks, one must rise to meet the challenge.
Get a self-esteem coach: All Moses’ excuses were evidence of how little he thought of himself.
Get an ethnicity counselor: Moses was surely confused. When male Jewish babies were being killed by the Pharaoh, his mother schemed a plan, and Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him. Moses was raised half Jewish and half Egyptian.
When Moses left his sheltered environment and saw how horribly the Jewish slaves were treated, he lost his cool and killed an oppressor. Running away, he married into the Midianite tribe. And now God was asking him to return to Egypt to save his people?
God was saying to Moses, “You need to remember your people, your ethnicity.” His social identity was waning.
Seriously, Moses’ final advice to us would be more timeless and relevant: Whenever God speaks, listen. Whenever God calls, respond. God will go with you.
Don’t take the job
Rabbi Herbert Mandl, emeritus, Kehilath Israel: In Judaism we have a tradition that says we do not say anything disrespectful against God or any of the great leaders of our past.
We always begin with a statement “If I dare say this….”
It is in that spirit that I respond to the question of this article, because who am I to make suggestions to Moses!
If I were to give advice to Moses, I would begin by telling him, “Do not take the job!” I mean that semi-seriously. The task of leading several million individuals, especially of the Jewish faith, during the most trying time of all Jewish and perhaps world history is a thankless and almost impossible feat.
However, fortunately or unfortunately, Moses was given no choice. At the vision of the burning bush, God chose him to lead the Jewish people despite all his protestation that he could not speak properly, etc. God told him the job was his.
The next bit of advice that I would give to Moses would be to delegate authority. That was advice that was given to him later by his father-in-law, Jethro, but way too late in his career.
Moses lost the ability to enter the land of Israel as punishment for his temper when he struck the rock when God told him to speak to the rock to bring out water. Some of these flashes of temper were due to Moses trying to do the entire job himself.
No one, even of great stature, is capable of doing everything by oneself.
Finally, I would tell Moses to try to find some time to relax. He seemed to be on the job 24/7, and that is a recipe for tension, which he had during his otherwise wonderful lifetime.