Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Shmot

By: Mrs. Zahava Bitter

In Parashat Shemot, we encounter a perplexing exchange between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu. While standing in front of G-d at the burning bush, Moshe argues desperately and repeatedly that he ought to be free of the responsibility of saving the Jewish people. Moshe is relentless in making the case for his "unworthiness" to be the "right man for the job". Hashem patiently, so to speak, works at easing Moshe of all of his fears. The conversation continues to the point where G-d responds to Moshe in harsh terms and tells him that he will not have to do the job alone but that his brother Aharon will be at his side throughout the entire endeavor. The description of this dialogue is recorded in the third and fourth chapters of Sefer Shemot.

It is astonishing that Moshe is willing to be completely defiant of G-d's command. How could any person, no less Moshe Rabbeinu, shy away from a divine mission that has been catered specifically for him? Furthermore, did Moshe not see the suffering of the Jewish people? Did he not realize that if he delays in this task it would cause more death and suffering for his entire nation?

Moshe's final plea to Hashem, "ויאמר בי אדני שלח נא ביד תשלח", "assign this mission to the one whom You will send" (4:13), is one that is uniquely perplexing. The commentators seek to understand what exactly Moshe is saying at this point. Rashi and others opine that Moshe is asking Hashem to send Aharon in his stead, while others, for example the Ramban, think that Moshe is saying that anyone would be more suited than he for this job. The midrash Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer states that Moshe is requesting that Hashem send Eliyahu Hanavi in his place. This is a strange midrash, especially since Eliyahu Hanavi would not be born until hundreds of years would pass. What message is this midrash trying to bring to us?

Rav Soloveitchik explained, in a Tisha B'Av discourse, that this midrash is telling us that Moshe was given a glimpse into Jewish history at the burning bush. He saw that the Jewish people would be saved from Egypt and enter the Land of Israel. He saw the building of the Temple but its destruction as well. He saw the rebuilding of the temple, but then repeated suffering and exile; He witnessed the pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.

Through this foresight, Moshe is overcome by the desire to dissociate himself from the redemption from Egypt. He knows that the salvation that will come now, through his assistance, will only be a temporary one. The Egyptian oppression will be followed by many more encounters with persecution. Moshe turns to Hashem and begs that Eliyahu Hanavi, the one who will bring the final redemption, should be the one who takes the people out of Egypt. He begs from Hashem that this should be the end of all suffering for the Jewish people. This request therefore reflects how Moshe cares deeply about the Jewish people, to the extent that he wishes that they be redeemed at the hands of the ultimate human redeemer!

But Hashem responds to Moshe with anger, thereby criticizing him for allowing the future to distract him. Hashem is educating Moshe that the ultimate redemption is a process and that, at the present stage of history, Moshe is the ideal redeemer. G-d has prescribed that the Jewish people must endure multiple cycles of redemption and exile in order to reach their ultimate redemption; No "quick fix" is available at this time. This is where Moshe's deepest frustrations lie, and this is exactly where G-d chastises Moshe for being preoccupied with the distant future. The ideal Jewish leader must be focused on the present, and have faith in Hashem about what the future has in store.

So often we find ourselves unable to make decisions, to do what is important, or to be productive because we are overly concerned about the future ramifications of our actions. Hashem's lesson to Moshe is relevant to each and every one of us: we need to act based on what we see as the best option in the present, and trust that we, with G-d's help, will deal with future challenges as they arise. Just as each and every stage leading up to our collective national redemption must be valued and dealt with on its own terms, so too must we view our own personal lives in this regard as well by valuing and maximizing each step of the way.