Monday, 31 January 2011

The Rabbi's Speech

Here is my sermon from last Shabbat- enjoy!

I went to see a film last week.

Usually I would not share this trivial piece of information with you- What does your Rabbi do in his spare time? (apart from writing blogs) you are thinking- but The King’s Speech is really a wonderful film.

Have you seen it yet?

If you haven’t- go and see it.

It’s a true story about a Prince-known as Bertie whose brother Edward was King and forced to abdicate the throne. Bertie was then thrust into the position of becoming the King, something he and his wife Elisabeth had never expected.

Of course this was particularly problematic because he had a really bad speech impediment.

He stammered.

He found it very difficult to get his words out and to communicate.

In the past he had tried to deliver speeches but had failed miserably.

The film explores his relationship with his speech therapist Lionel Logue who uses very modern and controversial methods for the time to help Bertie or King George VI as he is later known.

But George doesn’t really want the position- It’s just a matter of circumstance

I just want to share with you one very powerful scene before the coronation. They’re in Westminster Abbey in preparation and all of a sudden Logue sits on the throne.

George is furious at him and tells him: “you can’t sit there!-it’s a place reserved for K-K k k kings and you are but a commoner.”

To which Logue responds “Why not?- you don’t want to be the king – you said so yourself”

King George responds to him “But I have a voice!!”

That was a turning point in his life and King George finds his voice and leads his country throughout the war years.

It’s a powerful, emotive and wonderful film.

I can relate to the predicament of King George- it’s never been an easy thing for me to speak publicly. It doesn’t come naturally. It might look easy but it takes hours upon hours of preparation which can be blown in a very short time.

I remember speaking to my father ZL-Rev Sidney Black, who was a very learned and experienced speaker- who told me that still at an advanced age whenever he got up to speak he was quite nervous.

“If you’re not nervous- you’re not going to succeed.” he told me…

I thought about this film and I realised that the greatest of our leaders, Moshe suffered from exactly the same problem:

In the initial conversation he has with Hashem he declares time and time again:

“I am not a man of words. For I am heavy of mouth and heavy of speech.”

And our commentators explain that Moshe the greatest of our leaders had a speech impediment. He found it difficult to speak and communicate.

I don’t want to delve into the Medrashic account of how he came to have a speech problem

However, G-d responds that Aharon would act as the spokesman for Moshe and as the communicator with Israel and with Pharaoh

Later, during the ten plagues Moshe again declares to Hashem, “Behold I am of uncircumcised lips therefore how could you expect Pharaoh to listen to my words?”

Yet it would be Moshe Rabbeinu- who would be the true shepherd of his people. He led them out of Egypt across the Red Sea. He led them in the war against the Amalekites, and he was the one who gave them the instruction throughout, and it was Moshe about whom we read in this sedra who went up the Mountain alone to receive the Torah. Moshe was the judge, the shepherd, and he was Rabbeinu, our teacher par excellence.

So how comes he had a speech impediment?

Why should the greatest leader that we ever had- about whom it is written – “there never arose and never will arise in Israel a prophet of the stature of Moshe”. The only one of our leaders who spoke to G-d face to face-about whom it is also written that he was the most humble of all men- yet he had a speech impediment? He had problems with communication?

Why should that be? I hope you understand the question and that I have communicated this properly to you.

First- that the Torah comes from G-d and is Emet- the truth. It wasn’t the might of Moshe Rabbeinu’s oratorical skills that made the difference, it wasn’t his smooth persuasive tongue that brought everybody around to his way of thinking. It was just the fact that the Torah comes from Hashem and is His word that meant that it didn’t need any embellishment. And they had all witnessed first hand as a people the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna from heaven and the words of Hashem at Sinai. So therefore Moshe did not need to have that skill of speaking because when you are transmitting the truth you don’t need to package it.

Second, that even though Moshe suffered from the outset with a confidence problem with his speech and seemed to be unable to communicate, yet later on Moshe Rabbeinu communicated the word of Hashem direct to the people. He acted as a direct intercessor between G-d and the B’nei Yisrael. The Book of Devarim is a book comprising the speeches that Moshe delivered to Israel

Could it be possible that Moshe found his voice?

My friends: I think the message is important. Today we have more than just the conventional modes of communication to deliver the values and the messages of Judsaism.

There is more than just speaking the ten minute drasha on the Shabbat morning or the traditional shiur structure.

Today we can reach a wider audience. There is the internet, facebook, there are websites – video logs and blogs.

We’ve found our voice.

We’ve got to use it!!

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