"Moses Speaks to Pharaoh" by James Tissot, ca. 1900
"Moses Speaks to Pharaoh" by James Tissot, ca. 1900

You: No way could I pull that off. God: Oh yes you can!

The Torah column is supported by a generous donation from Eve Gordon-Ramek in memory of Kenneth Gordon.


Exodus 6:2–9:35

Do you have the tendency to feel insecure? Is your confidence the consistency of Jell-O? Do you feel inadequate about what you intend to do in the future?

The great news: You are in good company. When we think of Moses, we remember him as the historic leader who led the Jews out of slavery. But we forget that Moses doubted himself, too.

At the burning bush, God appeared to Moses and told him to return to Egypt to free the Jews. Instead of immediately complying, Moses argued with God and said that in the past he had tried to help the Jews but failed. He felt the Jews would not take him seriously and that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to him either. He had a stuttering problem that made him self-conscious. He felt unqualified for the task. The moment was too big for him.

Then God simply said to Moses: “מַה-זֶּה בְיָדֶךָ” (What do you have in your hand?) You see, God shifted Moses’ attention away from anxiety over the past and future. He said, in essence, use what you have now. Stay focused on the present.

“You have a staff in your hand, use it.”

God showed Moses that it didn’t matter what he thought he needed. The Creator of the universe can take what you have and turn it into whatever it needs to be in order for you to accomplish what He’s called you to achieve.

We can all make excuses: “I’m not qualified. I’ve made too many mistakes. I don’t have the talent, the eloquence, the personality, the confidence.” God says: “I know all that. I created you. But what do you have in your hand? All I ask is that you use it.”

Before slaying Goliath, David probably thought, “God, I’m too little, too young, too inexperienced. Goliath is a powerful, confident warrior. How can I fight him?” And God said, “David, I know that. I know you don’t have air support or helicopters backing you up. But what do you have in your hand? Pebbles and a slingshot? Use it!”

Esther said, “God, I can’t go in there and speak to the king. I have no diplomatic training. I don’t have any influence. He will not listen to me. He may kill me.” And God said, “Esther, what do you have in your hand? Can you throw a wine party? Can you shmooze a bit with Haman and the king? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. You do your part, and I’ll do Mine.”

Pharaoh’s daughter heard baby Moses’ cry. She probably thought, “It’s me, one girl against an empire.” And God said. “What do you have in your hand?”

And she said, “Nothing.”

God said, “Well, if all you’ve got is your hand, use your hand, for God’s sake.” And she extended her hand toward the basket and changed all of human history!

What’s in your hand today?

It may not seem like much, but God wants you to use it. He wants to take us to places we’ve never dreamed of. He wants to pour His blessing into the work of our hands so we can lead the rich lives He has in store for us. We already have everything we need.

Rabbi Dov Greenberg
Rabbi Dov Greenberg

Rabbi Dov Greenberg leads Stanford Chabad and lectures across the world.