Torah Portion of the Week: Parsha Va’era (I Appeared)

Parsha Va’eira / Shabbat, 28 Tevet, 5783 / 21 January, 2023

12 And Moses spoke before the LORD, saying: ‘Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?’

Exodus 6:12

Odd as it may seem, Moses used the word “uncircumcised” (עָרֵל arel) to describe his speech impediment and struggle to articulate.

The adjective ערל (arel) and the feminine noun ערלה (orlah) refers to someone or something that is “uncircumcised” literally or figuratively. The word orlah ערלה shares its first three Hebrew letters with the word arel ערל.

Orlah is rooted in the mitzvah of brit milah — the covenant of the circumcision.

    We can see examples of its figurative usage in the words of Moses and many other places in the Torah, such as the following two examples:

    Deuteronomy 10:16: “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be stiff-necked no longer.”

    Leviticus 19:23 “When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten.”

    In the Hebrew reading of the text, the fruit produced by a new tree in the first three years is called orlah or “uncircumcised” fruit.

    In the Zohar (preeminent book of Kabbalah), orlah represents a barrier between a human and God or between inner potential and outer manifestation. Orlah is a spiritual blockage and a state of being that is described as ‘closed up.’

    Even though he was on direct mission from God, Moses felt the blockage that impeded his speech could never overcome the status of the Pharaoh or the internalized bias of the Israelites.

    Have you ever felt you can never be heard as a credible voice above the “Pharaoh” of money, clout and social status?

    Moses wanted nothing more than to return to his familiar life in the pastures, herding sheep, where he wasn’t required to give speeches or strive for credibility. He didn’t want his boundaries pushed and he didn’t want to leave his comfort zone.

    How many of us can relate to the fear and insecurity Moses felt when leaving his familiar comfort zone? I know I can!

    The Israelites also felt unprepared to depart the familiar and head out into the unknown. They too were ‘closed up.’

    Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses because of their kotzer ruach

    Exodus 6:9

    Kotzer ruach is translated as “shortness of breath” and “shortness of spirit.” There are many terms in Hebrew that provide insight into the deep meaning of the word ruach (breath/spirit).

    In Genesis 1:2 “The Spirit of God” is called Ruach Elohim. In Genesis 6:17 the “spirit of life” is called ruach chayim.

    Ruach HaKodesh is the “The Holy Spirit.”

    The word ruach appears nearly 400 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures).

    Moses felt he would not be a credible voice because of his speech impediment and shortage of self-confidence, while the Torah tells us the Israelites didn’t listen to him because they were suffering from a “shortness of spirit.”

    Moses and the Israelites were stuck in their own separate states of mitzrayim, meaning “constricted space.”

    Rashi interpreted the term kotzer ruach as descriptive of one who is in anguish. When we’re in anguish of mind, body or spirit it makes it difficult to hear the words of others. Rabbi Seforno said the Israelites were indisposed to hear Moses and heed his words, because ‘their hearts were not ready to assimilate what he had to say.’

    Professor Nahum Sarna said the term kotzer ruach means the Israelites were dispirited.

    Ramban (Nachmonides) said the Israelites were frozen by their fear of leaping into the great unknown.

    Leaving the familiar for the vast expanse of the unknown is a daunting task. The familiar has its own rules, schedule and cadence. The unfamiliar carries the fear of being embarrassed and overwhelmed by the new territory we must navigate. The unfamiliar doesn’t have a familiar rhythm and it’s natural to feel anxious about how to merge it with the beat of our own drum.

    Has kotzer ruach or shortness of spirit (dispiritedness) ever kept you from venturing outside your familiar status quo? Transforming kotzer ruach into an orech ruach (expanded spirit) can feel overwhelming, but once we remove the blockages we can hear (seek clarity), connect to Source and take that first step forward.

    God gave Aaron (Aharon) the task of helping Moses overcome his ‘blockages’ of mind, speech and spirit. He didn’t have to go it alone. Sometimes we need someone to help us fulfill our potential and step into our self-actualization.

    ©️ 2023 All Rights Reserved

    23 thoughts on “Torah Portion of the Week: Parsha Va’era (I Appeared)

    1. Thank you, Rabbi Abby for understanding fear and anxiety. I have suffered from anxiety for many years. It was refreshing to me not to be blamed for it, as if I am a volunteer for this debilitating condition. I read that in the U.S. that the number one fear is fear of public speaking. There is so much more fear for someone with a speech impediment. It is hard to have confidence and self esteem in that situation. Moses was encouraged to speak irrespective of this challenge . Moses had courage and was able to get past some of his fear. I relate to Moses. When I am encouraged I am able to get past my fears. I flourish because I felt support. When someone believes in me I rise to the occasion. God believed in Moses. This changed Moses’s trajectory. I too, experienced never being heard. My voice was not not credible. I was either disrespected or invisible. I was marginalized until my Rabbi Abbi invited me to express my thoughts and ideas. My Rabbi helped me disregard status, clout and money when others were rejecting me , making fun of me and embarrassing me. I , too, have developed good boundaries. I no longer look for bread in a hardware store. It is imperative for me just as it was for Moses to be willing to speak out. Being enveloped in love has helped me flourish. This madrash was insightful, compassionate and validating. I know longer feel isolated and alone. I am forever grateful to you, Rav Abby.

      • “When someone believes in me I rise to the occasion. God believed in Moses. This changed Moses’s trajectory.” Yess!! That’s it exactly. When someone believes in us, we rise up to our potential…it’s a life-changing experience.

        I too know the feeling of looking for bread in the hardware store. 🙁

        Many thanks to you for the lovely comment. I appreciate your support and your thoughtful commentary and heartfelt dive into the relevancy and meaning.

    2. Wow! This blog portion is particularly poignant to me. As you may remember, I served a career in the Marines and am a combat veteran. Part of what every Marine goes through is severe training to overcome their fears and resistance to facing particularly difficult circumstances. I was also a Marine Drill Instructor after my service in Vietnam. I had been in two different combat zones, Dominican Republic and Vietnam, as well as having gone through many years of intense training prior to my assignment as a Drill Instructor at MCRD San Diego. My superiors were very enthused when they found out that I had requested that duty because of my experiences. They knew that if anyone could pass on the knowledge to the recruits of how to overcome fear, it was one who had faced extreme circumstances and had learned how to carry on despite my fear. I identify with Moses fear of facing Pharaoh. What I noticed in this situation was the fact that God could have instantly used his power to give Moses the ability to face any circumstance. But, he didn’t. God knew that Moses would never learn the confidence and have the ability for the future leading of the people, unless Moses faced the fire head-on and gained the confidence to be the great leader he would later become. Moses expressed in the best terms possible, the feeling of his lack of confidence in his ability to face Pharaoh. He knew the sacred ceremony of circumcision and identified that as his own shortcomings in speech and his own lack of preparation and ability to meet Pharaoh. He was pleading with God to help him face the circumstances. But, God, in His infinite wisdom, did not answer Moses’ request by empowering him, but by sending along his brother to help boost his courage, knowing that Moses needed to learn to face such circumstances by himself in order to build his confidence to face the future as the leader he needed to be. That is the same lesson we taught recruits. Many times I was tempted to help them when they faced difficult training. But, I knew that if I did, they would never have the confidence themselves to carry on in the face of danger and difficulty. This is a great lesson for all of us about facing our fears and going forward despite our apprehensions in order to build our character into what we can be.

      • Kudos on your powerful and deeply insightful commentary, Phil! I love it!

        “What I noticed in this situation was the fact that God could have instantly used his power to give Moses the ability to face any circumstance. But, he didn’t.” Excellent point! God could’ve instantly made him a great orator imbued with self-confidence. God didn’t choose that route, yet didn’t abandon Moses either. Aaron was given the job of helping him. God didn’t remove his self-consciousness or his speech impediment, but God have him mortal assistance and support.

        Thank you for your service and all the valuable lessons you share from your time in the Marines. I really appreciate all the powerful and poignant lived experiences that went into your comment. 🖖

      • I had another experience that served me well in life’s lessons preparing for our future, somethin God knows but we don’t. Just like God knew Moses’ future and helped him prepare for all the various people and circumstances he would encounter during his life:

        It is interesting how this post addressed confidence or lack of it. I remember as a young teen moving from Oregon, where I had lived since my birth and knew the town like the back of my hand. I had gone to school with the kids I knew from a young child and had one very close friend that I did many things with. I felt confident in my surroundings, what to wear, etc. Then, my father graduated from college, and we moved from my familiar surroundings to an upper middle-class neighborhood in Pennsylvania. Their speech, dress, and my surroundings were all new and unfamiliar. I had been used to wearing jeans and flannel shirts to school. My mom thought that clothing was perfectly suitable because she had grown up in Oregon and wasn’t familiar with living in a society where the kids wore the latest fashions. She also wasn’t used to having money and was very frugal, even patching the knees on my jeans. I became the joke at my new school, with my Oregon accent and clothes being known as “The hick from the sticks.” Fortunately, I was big and tough, so no bullying. But, still being made fun of behind my back. I eventually won my parents over, and they bought me new clothing, and I made friends and learned my way around in this new way of life. So, I can also identify with Moses and his clothes as a shepherd facing the court of Pharaoh with their fancy dress and palace. That lesson seeved me well in my later career as a District Manager over 5 states, VP on the Board of Directors of the Affordable Housing Management Association, and dealing with higher ups in HUD. I had gained confidence and was familiar with the language and dress of those in higher positions so I could do my job well in managing all the properties I had responsibility for and interacting with officials as well as knowing how those in lesser positions as janitors, maintenance workers, etc felt and the encouragement they needed to succeed. My early life lessons helped me succeed.

        • Yes! Moses was a humble shepherd from the pastures, walking into a palatial palace to address a king. He didn’t receive a new wardrobe for the job. Moses had experience with all levels and statuses. Thank you for another excellent take from the perspective of your lived experiences!

          • Thank you for your kind thoughts! I love your posts in your blog. They are extremely insightful and always provoke a lot of thought and memories of my own experiences. I always learn from your posts!

          • Thank you for your kind thoughts! I love your posts ! They are extremely insightful and always provoke a lot of thought and memories of my own experiences. I always learn from your posts!

            • That is music to my ears! Makes my whole day, month, year! Making biblical study relevant and relatable to our lived experiences and modern day lives is my passion and ultimate goal. Your presence here is very much appreciated my friend.

    3. Since Sue picked out the very question I was going to expound on, I chose a second favorite which is ….

      “Leaving the familiar for the vast expanse of the unknown is a daunting task.”

      YES! Yet the more we do it the more comfortable the unknown becomes. We adjust. And in the process of adjusting we gain Wisdom as to when to say something to someone or what to say to someone. I’ll give an example. My husband the other day was in a “mood” and shot at me a question which was meant to demean me. The answer I would have given to him ….. Yes, I am God ….. would have shocked him and made the situation even more of a mess. I held back but I answered his question …. Who do you think you are? God? …. silently with Yes, I am God.

      I am being very honest with you, for you may baulk at what I just said. ALL of creation are fractals of God, everything!! We are God incarnate walking this Earth! ALL of us. That is what I have learned and that is how I know the truth is the truth. Yet, most people who have a different understanding of God, would immediately rear back and consider me to be a heretic.

      I left the familiar a while back and when first I was introduced to the concept that yes I too am God, I rejected it. I reared back. No way that could be true. Yet the more I listened to certain teachings and the more I read the sacred word, the more I SEE yes this is truth. Do I go around proclaiming I am God? No. I act as God while living on this earth.

      So with all that being said, when we venture into the unknown, our minds expand and old ways of thinking will be replaced or improved and our Journey becomes surreal at times! Yet not all are on the same page we are, so we have to know when and where and what to say. Our heart will guide us every time. And when we get overwhelmed or just so weary hiking in unknown territory, it is time to relax, pull back, knowing that when the time is correct we again proceed learning as we go on.

      LOVED this post, my friend. You get my creative thinking process going. Yes you do! Thank you! xo

      • I’m smiling at thought of you and Sue honing in on the same question, but I love that you went for the one that you did, as it is also very relatable to me.

        We are in accordance…Kabbalah teaches that holy sparks of God are in everyone and everything animate and inanimate…people, animals, rocks, trees, blades of grass…we just have to raise up those holy sparks to manifest our inner essence of God. The Jewish Kabbalists taught that every ‘tool we have in our toolbox,’ such as the tools of our hobbies and trades, contain the holy sparks of God/Divinity and we are to use them (like you use your camera) to raise up the holy sparks.

        “Yet not all are on the same page we are, so we have to know when and where and what to say. Our heart will guide us every time. “ Amen! Every time I override my heart or my visceral instincts, I regret it. Also love your insight on giving ourselves permission to rest and decompress so that we can proceed forward again on the paths of the unknown when the timing feels right.

        It’s such an amazing experience when we find our people…the people that get us. Your thinking process is deeply valued and appreciated in my world. Abundant blessings and many thanks to you for sharing your profound thoughts with me. 😍

        • Oh dearest friend, I have friends and family who if I dared to speak what I did here with you, would be shocked and not take it with grace, no not at all. The more we expand our thinking, the more we question, the more we change our perspective, the more we lean on “Spirit” and the Eternal Wisdom from that Source …. the more we change. And in that changing we become more in tune to who we truly are.

          That knowledge has been stolen from us yet I believe the time has arrived that we learn who we are. That entails undoing most of our entire education for one, for no matter where we turned we were taught lies, misinformation, partial truths, and IF we questioned otherwise, we learned really fast what those consequences were.

          I AM so happy I am right on par with the Kabbalists. How absolutely fascinating that those who I don’t share a “belief system” with are more or less living life coming from the same perspective as I am. That just proves we are ALL ONE no matter what society or religion or upbringing we are familiar with.

          What is so exciting about this time right now is understanding when we embrace more and more what once was considered “woo woo” or just plain wrong, we know that we know YES this is Truth! The genies are jumping out of their bottles and boy am I loving it!! LOL

          The sky and beyond is my limit and in fact I say I won’t put a limit on myself, for God is not …. why should I be? I am so thrilled you have come into my life, dear friend. I know you. And you me. Just wow!! xoxoxo

    4. “Have you ever felt you can never be heard as a credible voice above the “Pharaoh” of money, clout and social status? “……….

      All the time Avigail, I doubt any of us want to leave our comfort zones.. But if we were not prepared to act or speak out , then we are no longer being true to our inner calling, our Divine connection with Source.. Our Higher self, our Holy Spirit.. We need to be true to ourselves.

      People may not listen or take heed, but as your post so well describes… We are sometimes given help and impetus be it through others, like God gave Aaron, to help him overcome his ‘Blockages’ so that we can help activate others in overcoming their inner fears..

      This Journey is not singular, it is now no longer dualistic… It is I feel, Multidimensional, as we pull back the missing parts of our broken selves.. From our Ancestral past and Galactic Heritages…
      We are living in the most exciting and yet at the same time the most disturbing of times, as we discover the true nature of our reality..

      Loved reading , I always learn so much when I visit here Avigail.. Thank you ❤
      Much love.. Sue ❤

      • My heart and soul perked right up when I read the line that you quoted at the top of your comment! You honed right in on it and I felt so validated by your response.

        We want to stay comfy, but our calling has other ideas, propelling us outward. This, above all, to thine ownself be true. It’s not an easy task by far, but with support we can overcome that which keeps us silenced and downtrodden.

        “Multidimensional” is a beautiful way to describe this paradigm shift. Together we can transform brokenness into wholeness and elevate the broken into the realm of sacred. It is indeed, the most exciting of times and the most disturbing.

        Abundant thanks for being here on this journey with me and blessing the universe with your wisdom, spiritual sister. Much love and gratitude for your presence. 💕💕

        • It is my pleasure Avigail… I am learning such a lot too from your posts that I catch.. Unfortunately I have not been in WP much to visit, as I have been finishing, still finishing in fact, some knitting project I had started.

          I see a Bifurcation happening as we see the ever widening gap between souls who are elevated and souls who are happily stuck in their comfortable ruts..
          It is never easy to witness, or move off our perches to speak out where we see injustice’s. Along with giving a helping hand where we feel needed.

          We are being I feel Divinely guided right now, and even those who as yet may not know their roll, they too will be given their guidance when the time is right…
          It is now time to choose, and our choices Do make a difference…. Even if it is via one word, one smile. one kindness at a time… Each is a ripple we send out into the world..

          Many thanks Avigail.. Much love right back from England.. ❤

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