In Sh'mot 3 and 4, God instructs Moshe to speak (variously) to both Paro and the people. Moshe then objects that he is not a good speaker, and in Shemot 4:15-16 God says to use Aharon, literally that Aharon will be his פֶ֔ה, mouth.

Was this just for when they were in Mitzrayim, or was it a longer-term arrangement? My mental image of Moshe speaking to the people at (and after) Har Sinai is of him speaking, not of Aharon relaying his words, and using an interpreter for almost all of Sefer D'varim seems especially challenging. But maybe my mental image is wrong; I don't know where I got it.

When, if ever, did Moshe start speaking directly instead of through Aharon?

  • Midrash to Parshas Devarim states pretty clearly that Moshe got over his speech impediment by that point and has a whole piece on it. It just contrasts Mitzraim to Moav, though; it doesn’t make a note of any time in the interim.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:28
  • @DonielF When you find the Midrash, please send a link. Whenever I lain pashat Devarim (it's my "fave of the five", BTW,) I comment to my friends about a fascinating contrast. When Moshe first gets his assignment, he says, Lo Ish Devarim Anochi - I am not a man of words. Forty years later, the Torah says, Eleh hadvarim asher diber Moshe el kol Yisra'el - "These are the words that Moses said to all of Israel". It's amazing what 40 years in a desert will do to someone's speech!
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 18:18
  • I think a Midrash says that Moshe and Aharon were "equals", and it's possible that both did some of the "talking" though in different ways. I think the idea is that Moshe did the initial relay, and Aharon may have refined or explained some of the details.
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 18:20
  • @DanF Here we go. That wasn’t so hard - it’s the first section in all of Devarim Rabbah. The wording used is “once he merited the Torah” he spoke just fine. Is that at Matan Torah? At Marah? It’s left unclear.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 18:21

3 Answers 3


The Ibn Ezra on Sh'mot 4:30 writes,

כי הוא המליץ על כן משה לא דבר עם ישראל לעולם רק על ידי אהרן. ובמותו היה כמו כן מליץ תחתיו אליעזר בנו

That Aharon was the spokesman, and Moshe never, ever, spoke directly to the Children of Israel, and when Aharon died, his son, Eliezer became spokesman in his place.

  • A comment.<br> There are 2 verses in Parshat Beshalach that appear to contradict the Ibn Ezra.<br><br> > Shemot 16:6 "[Thereupon,]<b> Moses and Aaron </b> said to all the > children of Israel, [In the] evening, you shall know that the Lord > brought you out of the land of Egypt." <br> <br>3 verses later in Shemot > 16:9 " <b> And Moses said to Aaron </b>, Say to the entire community > of the children of Israel, Draw near before the Lord, for He has heard > your complaints".
    – Jack Cohen
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 19:24

There is a Talmudic passage which paints an interesting picture about the relationship between Moses and Aaron vis-a-vis speaking to the people:

Eruvin 54b

ת"ר כיצד סדר משנה משה למד מפי הגבורה נכנס אהרן ושנה לו משה פירקו נסתלק אהרן וישב לשמאל משה נכנסו בניו ושנה להן משה פירקן נסתלקו בניו אלעזר ישב לימין משה ואיתמר לשמאל אהרן רבי יהודה אומר לעולם אהרן לימין משה חוזר נכנסו זקנים ושנה להן משה פירקן נסתלקו זקנים נכנסו כל העם ושנה להן משה פירקן נמצאו ביד אהרן ארבעה ביד בניו שלשה וביד הזקנים שנים וביד כל העם אחד נסתלק משה ושנה להן אהרן פירקו נסתלק אהרן שנו להן בניו פירקן נסתלקו בניו שנו להן זקנים פירקן נמצא ביד הכל ארבעה מכאן א"ר אליעזר חייב אדם לשנות לתלמידו ארבעה פעמים וקל וחומר ומה אהרן שלמד מפי משה ומשה מפי הגבורה כך הדיוט מפי הדיוט על אחת כמה וכמה ר"ע אומר מניין שחייב אדם לשנות לתלמידו עד שילמדנו שנאמר ולמדה את בני ישראל ומניין עד שתהא סדורה בפיהם שנאמר שימה בפיהם ומניין שחייב להראות לו פנים שנאמר ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם וליגמרו כולהו ממשה כדי לחלוק כבוד לאהרן ובניו וכבוד לזקנים וניעול אהרן וניגמר ממשה וליעיילו בניו וליגמרו מאהרן וליעיילו זקנים ולילפו מבניו וליזלו וליגמרינהו לכולהו ישראל כיון דמשה מפי הגבורה גמר מסתייעא מלתיה

Our Rabbis learned: What was the procedure of the instruction in the oral law? Moses learned from the mouth of the Omnipotent. Then Aaron entered and Moses taught him his lesson. Aaron then moved aside and sat down on Moses’ left. Thereupon Aaron's sons entered and Moses taught them their lesson. His sons then moved aside, Eleazar taking his seat on Moses’ right and Ithamar on Aaron's left. R. Judah stated: Aaron was always on Moses right. Thereupon the elders entered and Moses taught them their lesson, and when the elders moved aside all the people entered and Moses taught them their lesson. It thus followed that Aaron heard the lesson four times, his sons heard it three times, the elders twice and all the people once. At this stage Moses departed and Aaron taught them his lesson. Then Aaron departed and his sons taught them their lesson. His sons then departed and the elders taught them their lesson. It thus followed that everybody heard the lesson four times. From here R. Eliezer inferred: It is a man's duty to teach his pupil [his lesson] four times. For this is arrived at a minori ad majus: Aaron who learned from Moses who had it from the Omnipotent had to learn his lesson four times how much more so an ordinary pupil who learns from an ordinary teacher.

R. Akiba stated: Whence is it deduced that a man must go on teaching his pupil until he has mastered the subject? From Scripture where it says: And teach thou it to the children of Israel. And whence is it deduced that it must be taught until the students are well versed in it? From Scripture where it says. Put it in their mouths. And whence is it inferred that it is also his duty to explain to him the reasons? It has been said: Now these are the ordinances which thou shalt put before them.

But why did they not all learn direct from Moses? — In order to give a share of the honour to Aaron, his sons, and the elders. Then [why was not this procedure adopted:] Aaron might enter and learn from Moses, his sons might then enter and learn from Aaron, then the elders might enter and learn from his sons and these finally might teach all Israel? — As Moses learned from the mouth of the Omnipotent his own teaching was of greater value. (Soncino translation, my emphasis)

According to this interpretation, Moses taught everything directly to the entire nation, and then everything was repeated to the entire nation by Aaron (and then by his sons and the elders). The Talmud specifically points out that it was important for everyone to hear everything (at least once) directly from Moses himself, and not merely through Aaron as a mouthpiece/intermediary/interpreter.


Partial answer

See Ramba"n on Shemot 4:15. He clarifies that at least initially, Aharon spoke to the people and Moshe spoke to Pharoah. Only, later in Shemot 6:30 - 7:2 when Moshe says to G-d "how will Pharaoh listen to me?" that G-d says that Aharaon will speak to Pharaoh, also.

It is unclear (so far) when and if things changed and Moshe did most / all of the talking to the people.

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