Va’era – Hallmarks of a Leader
From the start Moses is uncomfortable with the task imposed upon him. He expressed reluctance at the Burning Bush to serve as the “liberator” of Israel from Pharaoh’s brutal oppression, suggesting that others were more worthy than he. Eventually (Midrashic interpretation describes the conversation at the Burning Bush as lasting the better part of a week) Moses conceded, but he had to be persuaded and given a few tricks to keep up his sleeve to convince both the members of his tribe as well as Pharaoh.
The initial reception for Moses among the Israelite camp was encouraging. Long had the people hoped for this fulfilment of God’s promise to materialize, and they expressed faith that Moses would succeed in his mission. His reception in Pharaoh’s throne-room was not as warm. “Pharaoh replied, ‘Who is this Lord that I should heed His voice to send away Israel? I do not know this Lord, nor will I send Israel away!'” (Exodus 5:2)
Moses and Aaron failed to negotiate a temporary reprieve for Israel to observe a festival in the wilderness. To the contrary, their attempts had a devastating effect, as Pharaoh then made conditions even harsher for the slaves, arguing that their workload must be too light if the slaves are entertaining such dreams. The Israelites who served as foremen of the work were embittered by this decree, and they confronted Moses and Aaron, accusing them of placing a sword in the hands of Pharaoh and his subjects to kill them. (vs. 21) Moses himself felt betrayed, and he expressed his deep frustration before God: “Moses returned to God and he said, ‘My Lord, why have You done evil to this people, why have You sent me? From the time I came before Pharaoh to speak in Your name his evil has increased upon the people, and You have not saved Your people.'” (5:22-23)
The greatest fears of Moses had come to fruition. His efforts were counterproductive. He had failed in his mission. It would have been