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    The message we all can give – D’varim

    Moses speaks to the Israelites, engraving by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

    This week’s portion of D’varim derives its name from the opening words, Eileh hadevarim asher dibber Moshe – “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel”.

    Coming to the end of his career, Moses offers a lyrical summing up of all he has done and said as leader of Israel for forty years. The words he utters are lyrical and impressive. Moses is clearly an orator.

    But can this be the same Moses who was afraid to approach Pharaoh and plead the case of the Children of Israel, saying, “I am not a man of words”? Is this the Moses who was “heavy of speech and heavy of tongue” who had to get Aaron to speak for him when the times needed an orator?

    What has made Aaron suddenly become eloquent?

    The answer is that nothing has happened suddenly. It has taken many years. After leading Israel for nearly forty years through so many events, crises and challenges, he who was afraid to speak has become an orator of remarkable quality. Experience has moulded and refined his talents.

    What has happened to Moses happens to almost every preacher. Few are natural speakers able to say something significant almost from the cradle. Few are turned into speakers by books on speaking technique or by tutors in the art of preaching.

    True, all this helps. Not least because it demonstrates how to plan an address and get to the point clearly, logically and effectively.

    But what really teaches you to preach is neither heredity, books or tutors, but your experience of life.

    You face the ups and downs of your own and other people’s lives, you seek meaning in events, a path through a wilderness, a poetical phrase for a moment of exaltation, and you remember just the right verse, comment or parable and it says to you, dar’sheni! – “expound me!”

    It takes hold of your heart and mind. It speaks through you. It connects with the occasion. And you find you are a preacher.

    All who have eyes to see, a heart to feel, a mind to reflect, and memories, savings and stories to draw upon, likewise have a message to give. Perhaps it is to share with other people; perhaps the meaning they see in life is addressed to themselves.

    For when you can tell yourself you understand what is happening in your life, when you can sum it up to yourself, you are able to respond to events and even to mould them.

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