I am fascinated by my grandson’s obsession with his mouth. I bought a pull-toy for him as a Chanukah gift, and he examined every piece with his mouth. Whenever he pulls a book from the shelf, he puts the pages in his mouth before tearing them. It seems that he measures the world with his mouth.
Moshe has a “heavy mouth and a heavy tongue.” Did that manifest itself in his behavior as a baby? Did baby Moshe Rabbeinu put everything he saw into his mouth?
The Midrash says that the reason Moshe had a speech impediment was that Pharaoh tested Moshe using the expected oral fixation: Pharaoh placed his royal crown and a burning hot coal before the baby. Pharaoh would know that this baby posed danger if he went after the crown, but would not grow up to be a problem if he went after the burning coal. An angel, guided baby Moshe’s hand to the coal, and Moshe, as any baby would do, placed the coal in his mouth. Pharaoh took this as a sign that the baby did not pose a risk, and therefore agreed for his daughter to keep him alive.
Great story! I have a problem: Which baby do you know would be able to grab the coal and hold on long enough to place the coal in his mouth? How could Pharaoh watch a baby hold on to a burning coal and not be concerned that this baby certainly had some unusual strengths?
There is another problem: The Talmud teaches that baby Moshe refused to suckle from an Egyptian woman; The Mouth that would speak with God could not be impurified by sucking from an Egyptian woman.
If God was so protective of Moshe’s mouth, why did He allow Moshe to burn his tongue? Pharaoh would have been satisfied if the baby simply grabbed the coal. It seems that God wanted Moshe to burn his tongue, and for Pharaoh to see it happen.
Picture the scene: Moshe arrives as the leader of the Jews and needs Aaron to speak for him. Pharaoh immediately remembers the test. Does he laugh as he recalls that he is the one who caused Moshe’s speech impediment? Does he wonder why his test didn’t work as planned? Or, does he wonder why he never took notice of baby Moshe’s ability to grab and hold onto a burning coal?
To Be Continued…
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