A large part of this week’s parsha is devoted to the inauguration prophecy of Moshe Rabeinu on Mount Horev, where he is chosen and sent by Hashem to redeem Am Yisrael from Mitzrayim. According to Chazal, this encounter transpired over a period of seven days during which Hashem enticed Moshe to go on this mission. The Torah relates this encounter as an attempt of Hashem to persuade Moshe to fulfill this charge and it describes a sort of negotiation process where Hashem commands/requests from Moshe to do something which is followed by a response or objection of Moshe which is again followed by a response of Hashem.
The mere notion of Moshe “negotiating” with Hashem after being commanded to go and save Am Yisrael from their bitter servitude raises many questions; however, in the framework of this dvar Torah I would like to focus on one of the objections raised by Moshe and Hashem’s response.
Picking up on the conversation in Shmot chapter 3, verse 13:
“And Moshe said to Hashem, “Behold I come to Bnei Yisrael, and I say to them, ‘The G-d of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?“
To this question of Moshe there is a lengthy response of Hashem which continues till the end of the chapter. In the midst of Hashem explaining to Moshe what to say to Am Yisrael to convince them of the veracity of his mission, Hashem ensures Moshe that his words will not fall on deaf ears:
”And they will hearken (ושמעו) to your voice, and you shall come, you and the elders of Yisrael, to the king of Mitzrayim, and you shall say to him ….”
However, following this response of Hashem, Moshe in turn responds at the beginning of the next chapter by saying:
“Moshe answered and said, ‘Behold they will not believe me, and they will not heed (ולא ישמעו) my voice, but they will say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you“.
Many of the commentators contemplated the apparent lack of trust of Moshe in Hashem’s assurance that the people would believe him. Rashi, quoting the Midrash, in fact explains that Moshe displayed a lack of trust in Am Yisrael and wrongfully suspected them of lacking faith. The signs which Hashem subsequently instructs Moshe to perform in front of Bnei Yisrael are more directed as a lesson to Moshe for speaking Lashon Hara about Bnei Yisrael than them being intended to convince Bnei Yisrael of anything.
Other commentators took different approaches to resolve this difficulty.
Of particular interest is the explanation of the Netziv. He explains that Moshe’s opposition at this stage to his appointment was based on the conviction that Bnei Yisrael would not believe that Hashem appeared “davka” to Moshe. Surely Bnei Yisrael were eagerly anticipating their redemption – it was something that was embedded in their tradition, and they had cried out to Hashem to be saved, however they would not believe that Moshe was their redeemer. Although we all envision Moshe as Moshe Rabeinu, the ultimate teacher of Torah, the Netziv explains that at this initial stage, in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael, Moshe was an outsider. After killing the Egyptian in his youth he fled Egypt and, in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael, this would be construed as a desertion of his Jewish identity. He was to them someone who, although born Jewish, was raised and educated as an Egyptian. He possibly did not even speak their language and certainly was not a Torah figurehead. The personality they were expecting to redeem them was someone completely different, someone like Aharon, Moshe’s brother who was known for his piousness and religiosity.
The signs which Hashem subsequently show Moshe to perform in front of Bnei Yisrael are all in response to these concerns of Moshe. Through careful analysis of the verses the Netziv points out that not merely does the staff turn into a snake and back into a staff, rather the tail of the snake turns into the head of the staff, indicating that Moshe, who is like the tail of Bnei Yisrael, has turned into the head, the leader. The second sign of leprosy is also explained in this context.
The third sign, the water turning into blood, according to the Netziv, is not meant to be another means of persuasion rather a warning to Bnei Yisrael that should they insist on rejecting the redemption, since it did not appear to them as they expected, then that same redemption, symbolized by the water, will turn for them into death, symbolized by blood, which indeed happened for those who rejected the redemption and chose not to leave Mitzrayim. According to Chazal, they subsequently died in the plague of darkness.
This commentary of the Netziv was not merely an academic, theoretical issue regarding bible exegesis, but more so it had and still has practical consequences. The Netziv lived at the same time as the founding and activities of the Zionist Movement were taking on momentum. He and other Rabbis were approached to support the Zionist cause. Many Rabbis rejected these plans because the Zionist movement was secular and its founders too. The Netziv, however, took his key from our parsha where we learn that the way we expect Hashem to do things is not necessarily the way He chooses to do them. In the words of the Netziv ,” it is not for us to have an opinion on the way Hashem does things, and it is not for us to be wiser than Him, it is incumbent on us to embrace the Geulah in whatever way Hashem decides to reveal it.”
“ We learn from this that for a full seven days the Holy One, blessed be He, was enticing Moshe in the thorn bush to go on His mission: “from yesterday,” “from the day before yesterday,” “from the time You have spoken” ; thus there are three days, and the three times גַּם is mentioned are inclusive words, adding up to six, and he was presently in the seventh day when he further said to Him, “Send now with whom You would send”, until He became angry and complained about him.” Rashi, Shmot 4;10.
 Shmot 3;18.
” and the staff became a serpent-: This was how Hashem hinted to Moshe that he had spoken ill of Yisrael (by saying, “They will not believe me,”) and he had adopted the art of the serpent.” Rashi’ Shmot 4;3.
“his hand was leprous like snow: It is usual for leprosy to be white as we find: “If it be a white blemish.” (Vayikra 13:4) With this sign, too, He hinted to him that he spoke slanderously when he said, “They will not believe me.” It is for this reason that He struck him with leprosy, just as Miriam was struck for speaking slanderously.” Rashi ibid;6.
“they will believe the voice of the last sign: When you tell them, “Because of you I was stricken, because I spoke ill of you,” they will believe you, for they have already learned that those who trespass against them are stricken with plagues, such as Paro and Avimelech, who were punished because of Sarah.“ Rashi ibid;8.
 See Ibn Ezra, Raman, Chizkuni, Sforno, Malbim , S R Hirsch and others on Shmot 4;1.
 Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1816 Mir, Russia – August 10, 1893 Warsaw, Poland), Rosh Yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva.
 Ha’amek Davar Shmot 4;1.
 Shmot 2;23-25.
 See Ibn Ezra, Shmot 2’11.
 Letter titled “Acharit Kiv’reishit” – Sefer Shivat Tzion pg17.