We read last week how, when G‑d commanded Moses to go down to Egypt to free the Israelites, Moses countered that he was “heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.” After a lengthy back-and-forth, Moses finally took the job. What I want to know is: why did G‑d choose to make Moses a stutterer in the first place?


Perhaps you already know the account in the Midrash that tells how Moses injured himself as a small child when he put a burning coal in his mouth. However, the question of why G‑d arranged that Moses, of all people, should suffer a speech impediment is still a question.

The 14th-century sage Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben (known as the Ran) explained as follows: Had Moses been an eloquent and gifted speaker, there would always be room for skeptics to claim that the Jewish people accepted the Torah, its truths and its mandates, only as a result of Moses’ charisma. After all, a glib, captivating speaker can convince people of just about anything. Now that it was actually a challenge to listen to Moses, it became eminently clear that we did not accept the Torah because we were wowed by Moses; we accepted the Torah because we were wowed by G‑d.

This is reflected in G‑d’s words to Moses, “Who gave man a mouth . . . is it not I, the L‑rd?” G‑d was telling him, “Yes, you have a hard time speaking, but that is not a reason not to take this job. On the contrary, you have this handicap because I have selected you to take the job.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi taught that Moses’ less-than-perfect communication ability was actually a reflection of his special and lofty soul.

You see, the Kabbalists explain that before G‑d created our reality, known as the World of Tikkun, He first created a universe of extremes, where G‑d’s light shone with an ultimate intensity. So intense that there was nothing able to contain it and nowhere to channel it. This world was known as the World of Tohu. As you can imagine, Tohu broke down. From its shattered remains, our imperfect yet sustainable universe of Tikkun was born.

Most of us possess souls from the World of Tikkun. However, there were two special souls from the world of Tohu that descended into the world of Tikkun. The first one was Enoch, and the second one was Moses. As a Tohu soul, Moses had intense G‑dly energy within him. He experienced things that no other human had ever experienced. However, he lacked the tools to bring them out—just as in the world of Tohu, there is much brilliance but nothing to contain and convey it. His stutter was just one manifestation of his unique soul.

Derashot HaRan, derush 3; Torah Ohr, Shemot 51d.