Moshe’s Kingship

By Rabbi Nussbaum
January 15, 2021
SHEVAT 2, 5780
Candlelighting Time 4:42 PM

            Moshe was concerned because he was not an orator that would enable him to speak to Pharaoh with the proper dynamism. Therefore, Hashem partnered Ahron with Moshe. Rashi explains that Moshe would briefly warn Pharaoh about the upcoming calamity that was to befall him and Ahron would more aggressively present their threat. Nachmonides takes exception to this stating that Moshe did not speak to Pharaoh at all, simply he would accompany Ahron and Ahron would be their spokesman. The commentators side with Nachmonides that his explanation actually is much more likely. After all, since Ahron was needed to state their case more convincingly, why should Moshe speak at all?

            Rashi further explains that Hashem appointed Moshe to rule over Pharaoh and exact punishments from him. The Brisker Rav explains that the plagues that the Egyptians suffered were not actually to coerce them to liberate us from their bondage, rather purely to punish them. When Hashem appeared to Avrohom, he was told that the nation that enslaves us will be judged and be subject to harsh measures. Therefore, Hashem afflicted them with plagues in Egypt and as well at the crossing of the sea. This entire episode lasted for an entire year, at that point the Egyptian empire lay in total ruin and Pharaoh was prepared to release the people to go to the desert and serve Hashem. Therefore, it may be stated that Moshe actually ruled over Pharaoh as his judge and executed his verdicts as ordained by Hashem. In fact, Moshe was truly the acting king of Egypt during that year, toppling Pharaoh since he had lost his power to enslave our nation or to oust Moshe and Ahron as they continuously harassed him and summarily implemented Hashem’s ultimate plan for the mass departure from Egypt.

            Indeed, the commentators clearly ascribe to Moshe a title of leadership bordering on monarchy. When Hashem charged Moshe with the responsibility to emancipate the nation from servitude and oppression, He actually appointed and elevated him to the status of a prince. Maimonides writes that Moshe was a bona fide king. As befits a king, he ruled over his subjects, in this case, the Egyptians including Pharaoh, delivering blow after blow to conquer and vanquish them.

            Therefore, when the nation marched out of Egypt they did so as a nation beholden to their king, Moshe. Now, it is quite understandable that Rashi explains that Moshe initially warned Pharaoh each time and then Ahron added the finishing touches to each threat. In his role as king, he was to control the situation and render his adversary, Pharaoh, immobilized and ineffective. Therefore, when they left Egypt they departed with grandeur and pride. When we sit at the seder table recalling that incredible and pivotal episode in our history, we recline with dignity and dine majestically ‘reenacting’ those noteworthy moments that defined our nobility and eminence. 


Even though Moshe complained to Hashem that since his arrival on the scene the situation of the nation deteriorated, he did so out of humility because he was unable to tolerate the abysmal condition of the people.                                                                                                                          S’FAS EMES