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Parshat Va'era

By: Mrs Malka Hubscher

At the end of Parshat Shemot, Moshe demonstrates his frustration and impatience with his seeing his duty to fruition. Moshe experienced feelings of failure in his mission to Paroah. After Moshe’s first appearance to Paroah demanding the freedom of the Jewish people, not only did Paroah not heed his words and free the Jews, instead Paroah increased the intensity of the Jew’s workload. The Jews come complaining to Moshe and hold him responsible for their new, even more difficult reality. Moshe does not respond directly to the people, for it seems he feels that their claim is legitimate and instead, turns to Hashem. He takes their criticism to heart and demands answers from G-d. Moshe asks G-d, “Why have you made the lives of the Jews more difficult? Why did you send me?” In this statement, Moshe brings into questions his entire mission and G-d’s intentions.


Parshat Va’era begins with Hashem’s answer to Moshe’s challenge. Hashem explains that He appeared to the Avot but yet did not reveal His name fully. Hashem also speaks of the four ‘leshonot shel ge’ulah’ in his response which symbolize the manner in which the redemption will come.  Why does G-d bring up the Avot? What message is He sending Moshe?


Rashi, based on Chazal, reads this entire section as a strong rebuke of Moshe. Rashi points out that the name “Elokim” appears in this section connoting Midat Hadin. Hashem rebukes Moshe who seemingly lost faith after one setback in contrast to the Avot, who were promised many things by G-d and never saw the fulfillment of these promises in their lifetime. The Avot never lost faith orquestioned G-d’s intentions despite so many hardships and challenges.


The Ramban adds that G-d not only rebukes Moshe for his lack of faith but reminds Moshe that his level of nevuah was even greater than the Avot. ‘I did not reveal My name fully to them’ indicating that Moshe’s level of prophecy was far superior to that of the Avot, and thus his understanding of G-d should have been deeper and more complex. Chazal’s explanation suggests an expectation of immediate greatness for Moshe despite this being the very beginning of his career.


However, from a simple reading of the text, it is quiet understandable that Moshe, who continually proclaims at the sneh that he is not adequate to be the leader, is disillusioned and frustrated when the people turn against him. Why are Chazal so tough on Moshe? The Ramban, at the end of a long perush (Shemot 6:1) adds a cryptic statement may help us understand Chazal’s rebuke of Moshe. Ramban explains that “Moshe should have had faith in the mercy of G-d and to instill this faith in B’nai Yisrael.”


Perhaps from this we can understand that Moshe’s crisis of faith was only one reason for Hashem’s rebuke. It is not uncommon for a leader to be afraid, have doubts or question the success of their mission. However, the role of a leader is to continually instill confidence and hope in the people despite their own dilemmas and uncertainties. When the people came complaining to Moshe he responded to their pain with silence. He then turned to Hashem with all of his questions. Through this experience Moshe learned an important quality of leadership. A leader must always respond to the people, look the people in the eye, feel and sympathize with their pain, even if he himself does not have all the answers.




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