At first, Moses’ mission seemed to be successful.
He had feared that the people would not believe in him, but G-D had given him signs to perform,
But then things start to go wrong, and continue going wrong.
Moses’ first appearance before Pharaoh is disastrous. Pharaoh refuses to recognise G-D.
He rejects Moses’ request to let the people travel into the wilderness. He makes life worse for the Israelites.
The people turn against Moses and Aaron:
Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh to renew their request.
They perform a sign – they turn a staff into a snake
but Pharaoh is unimpressed.
His own magicians can do likewise.
Next they bring the first of the plagues,
but again Pharaoh is unmoved.
He will not let the Israelites go.
And so it goes, nine times.
Moses does everything in his power and finds that nothing makes a difference.
The Israelites are still slaves.
We sense the pressure Moses is under.
In this week’s parsha, even though G-D has reassured Moses that he will eventually succeed, Moses replies:
" If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (Ex. 6: 12).
There is an enduring message here.
Leadership, even of the very highest order, is often marked by failure.
So it is with leaders.
Only in retrospect do heroes seem heroic and the many setbacks they faced reveal themselves as stepping stones on the road to victory.
In every field, high, low, sacred or secular, leaders are tested not by their successes but by their failures.
It can sometimes be easy to succeed. The conditions may be favourable. The economic, political or personal climate is good.
When there is an economic boom, most businesses flourish.
In the first months after a general election, the successful leader carries with him or her the charisma of victory.
It takes no special skill to succeed in good times.
But then the climate changes.
Eventually it always does. That is when many businesses, and Politicians fail.
There are times when even the greatest people stumble.
At such moments, character is tested.
The great human beings are not those who never fail.
They are those who survive failure, who keep on going,
who refuse to be defeated,
who never give up or give in.
They keep trying.
They learn from every mistake.
They treat failure as a learning experience.
And from every refusal to be defeated, they become stronger, wiser and more determined.
That is the story of Moses’ life in last week’s parsha and in this.
The English expression,
" Lose a battle and win the war,” applies.
Certainly we have stumbled and will stumble again,
The wisest of men said,
In the book of proverbs (24:16) it is written
" A righteous man falls seven times, but rises again”
Fools believe the intent of the verse is to teach us that the righteous man falls seven times and,
But the knowledgeable are aware that the essence of the righteous man’s rising again is because of his seven falls.
Greatness cannot be achieved without failure.
There are heights you cannot climb without first having fallen.
I would only add,
" And seyata diShmaya, the help of Heaven.”
G-D never loses faith in us even if we sometimes lose faith in ourselves.
The supreme role model is Moses who, despite all the setbacks chronicled in last week’s parsha and this, eventually became the man of whom it was said that he was “a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were undimmed and his energy unabated” (Deut. 34: 7).
Defeats, delays and disappointments hurt.
They hurt even for Moses.
So if there are times when we too feel discouraged and demoralised, it is important to remember that even the greatest people failed.
What made them great is that they kept going.
The road to success passes through many valleys of failure. There is no other way.