Moshe’s second question was based upon a perceived lack of connection between the da’as he had access to, and his ability to express that da’as in a revealed way, in a way that B’nei Yisroel could relate to. What good could result from spewing out Godly concepts to a large assembly of people who could only stand there with question marks on their faces?
This profound idea requires an explanation. The truth is, part of this concept we already accept, for we understand that not all knowledge is readily understandable; some knowledge is more “abstract,” more sublime than other knowledge.
This level of knowledge, which can often be “sensed” but not articulated, is often referred to as chochmah, which usually translates as “wisdom.” However, at this stage of such knowledge, it is hardly applicable in daily life. To make such knowledgeable useable, it has to undergo a process, an intellectual process.
It is not unlike the way electricity works in the physical world. For example, a waterfall might be the generator of a large amount of electrical current to be harnessed for domestic use. However, at its source, the current is so powerful that any attempt to connect a household appliance at that point would, at the very least, atomize the appliance!
On the other hand, what use is such power if it can be used by man? Therefore, in order to make the electricity functional, it is “stepped-down” by using a series of transformers and different size cables. By the time the electicity reaches a home, it may still be dangerous, but it can be utilized.
All knowledge is light, which, ultimately, can be traced back to God Himself. However, at its Source (or even close to it), it is knowledge that is so pristine and so sublime that the human mind, as great as it may be, cannot receive it without destructing. This is what God had warned Moshe on top of Har Sinai, after the incident with the golden calf:He [Moshe] said, “ Please, show me Your Glory.”In fact, the Talmud records such an incident where some tried to do just that, and failed:
And He [God] said ... “You cannot see My Face, for no man can see Me and live.” (Shemos 33:18)Four entered Pardes (peh, raish, dalet, samech), and they were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Rebi Akiva, and Acher ... Ben Azzai glanced [Rashi: to the side of the Shechina] and died; Ben Zoma glanced and went mad; Acher “cut off his plantings” (i.e., became a heretic); Rebi Akiva left in peace. (Chagigah 14b)Pardes means “garden,” or “paradise,” but in this context it is a word comprised of the first letter of four words: pshat, remez, drush, and sod—simple understanding, hint, exegesis, and mystery—the four levels on which Torah can be learned. The journey of Rebi Akiva and his colleagues had not been a physical one, but an intellectual one, a Kabballistic one into the deep and mysterious recesses of Torah.
As it is pointed out, theirs had not been merely an intellectual exercise; they had gone with a mission. However, as the Talmud relates, only Rebi Akiva had been successful at entering the “Garden” and returning in peace, and the Kabballistics explain why. (Leshem Shevo V’Achlamah, Dayah, 2:4:24:2.)
However, the main point to draw from this episode and the above possukim is that knowledge is not accessible to the human mind on all levels, and even knowledge that the mind can “sense” is not always expressible in words. However, it is the ability to do so that measures one’s connection to da’as, and this is why we say:You give man da’as, and You teach man understanding. Endow us graciously from Yourself with dayah, binah, v’haskel—knowledge, understanding, and integration. Blessed are You, God, Who gives da’as. (Shemonah Esrai)Dayah corresponds to chochmah, factual, abstract information. Binah, or understanding is what chochmah becomes after it has been “processed” intellectually, and after the relationship has begun to form between the person’s intellect and the concept. In fact, the word “binah” comes from the word “bein,” which means “between,” since it is an intellectual “distance” that allows us to objectively perceive an idea and relate to it.
However, even on the level of understanding, an idea may not have the “force” to alter a person’s behavior. To compel a person to integrate an idea into his personal outlook and approach to life, it must first become da’as; that is, one with the person’s psyche. On this level of relating to an idea, a violation of the concept is tantamount to a violation of the person’s very being!
Unfortunately though, like with the concretization of any abstract idea, it greatly reduces its sublimeness. Bringing down the light from Above into the lower, more physical realms, constricts the light, so-to-speak. Translating the lofty notions of Torah into words makes them less lofty, and one could rightly ask: isn’t it better to go up to Torah than to bring it down to us?
That was the underlying basis of Moshe’s second question.
From birth, Moshe had not been a normal human being. The Talmud states that he radiated the Hidden Light of creation from birth, (Sota 12a.) a clear indication that his soul was rooted very high up and intimately connected to da’as. His feet may have walked the ground, and he may have been the humblest man to “walk the face of the earth,” (BaMidbar 12:3.) but his mind reached into realms of light and knowledge to which the average mortal mind could not, much of which he could not render into words, and much of which he did not want to reduce to words. (Leshem Shevo v’Achlamah, Dayah 2:4:21:4.)
This is the deeper, more esoteric meaning of oral sefasayim—uncircumcized lips. For, the concept of orlah is that of a spiritual imposition (though it is physical as well) that holds back spiritual fulfillment and service of God. Moshe asked God: How can my physical lips express such highly spiritual knowledge?
(Interestingly enough, the last person to be mentioned in the geneology that followed Moshe’s question was none other than Pinchas himself, and even though this account preceded Pinchas’ act by forty years, his name is still spelled here with the extra yud!)
The real answer to Moshe’s question was:See, I have made you like an Elokim [Rashi: judge and castigator] to Paroah, and Aharon, your brother, will be your prophet [Rashi: interpreter] ... (Shemos 7:1)It seems as if God accepted Moshe’s plea, and instead placed an additional “filter” between Moshe and Paroah—his brother, Aharon the kohen. At least in Egypt, while speaking to the Peh Rah—“evil mouth”—and in a place that constricts the da’as the Fifty Gates of Understanding, the light that emanated from Above down through Moshe had to pass through an additional filter before making its way into the physical, non-sublime world of Egypt.
However, the addition of Aharon HaKohen into the redemption picture did not reduce Moshe’s responsibility as the communicator of Torah. Only he had the capacity to do the impossible: bring the Eternal Torah down into a temporal world. Only he had a high enough level of da’as—Da’as Moshe—to do so. Who else could break the Luchos, which were carved out by God and engraved by God, without first consulting with Him, and then have God congratulate him for doing it?! (Shabbos 87a.)
This was why Moshe was the “victim” of another particularly rare and bizarre episode in the Torah. It was bizarre not just because of what occurred, but also because of when it occurred: on the way down to Egypt to save the Jewish people.
For this reason, it is an episode that cannot be learned ostensibly at all. For this reason, it is an occurrence that must be laden with meaning, and links to other very central ideas. Indeed, it is connected to one of the most seminal concepts in all of creation, one that defines the very nature of the relationship between God and the Jewish people: Bris Milah.