The parasha begins with HaShem chastising Moshe for questioning Him as to why after sending Moshe to deliver the Jewish People from bondage, did He make the work even harder for them. Rashi writes that HaShem told Moshe, “I appeared to the Patriarchs with the Name E-l Shadai, and they never questioned Me, despite the challenges that confronted them. Woe on those who have passed on but are not forgotten, i.e. I miss the Patriarchs to whom I appeared to with the Name E-l Shadai and they did not ask Me for My True Name. However, you, Moshe, wondered what would occur if the Jewish People asked for My Name, what would you say to them?”
This response from HaShem is difficult to understand.
- Was it not true that Hashem, so to speak, had made life even harder for the Jews after Moshe went to Pharaoh?
- Even if Moshe was wrong in his response to HaShem regarding the increased cruelty to the Jewish people, why was it necessary for HaShem to invoke the Patriarchs? What lesson could Moshe gain from this diatribe?
In order to understand HaShem’s response to Moshe, it is worthwhile to examine a Rashi in the beginning of Sefer Yehoshua. It is said (Yehoshua 1:2) מֹשֶׁה עַבְדִּי מֵת וְעַתָּה קוּם עֲבֹר אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה אַתָּה וְכָל הָעָם הַזֶּה אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לָהֶם לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, Moshe My servant has died. Now, arise, cross this Jordan, you and this entire people, to the land that I give to them, to the Children of Israel. Rashi writes: HaShem said to Yehoshua, “Moshe my servant is dead, and if he were alive, I would desire him.” Was HaShem’s statement meant to demean Yehoshua? What was the benefit of HaShem informing Yehoshua that He would have preferred Moshe over him?
The answer to these questions is that there are always challenges in life, such as war, illness, marital discord, difficult children and more. The easiest reaction one can have when confronted with a challenge is to complain and wonder, “why me?” While it is difficult to suffer in silence, one must have a certain degree of acceptance that this is HaShem’s will and that HaShem knows what He is doing. When Moshe complained to HaShem about the increased suffering of the Jewish People, HaShem chastised Moshe for his impulsive reaction to suffering. HaShem chastised Moshe by telling him that the Patriarchs also suffered, but they did not immediately question HaShem’s ways. In a sense, HaShem was telling Moshe that had the Patriarchs been alive, they were more ideal to bear the suffering of the Jewish People. There is no mitzvah to complain when faced with suffering. Rather, one should pray to HaShem that the situation should improve and in the meantime, one should improve one’s self with positive actions. This was what HaShem told Yehoshua, “Moshe My servant has died. Now, arise, cross this Jordan.” Yes, Moshe is dead, but complaining about the situation and becoming lethargic is not the correct approach. Rather, arise and cross the Jordan, as this will be a positive action and the nation will be inspired.
It is noteworthy that the first plague that HaShem afflicted the Egyptians with is called דָּם, literally translated as blood. Another meaning of the letters דם is silence. Perhaps HaShem was hinting to Moshe and the Jewish People that when confronted with tragedy, the first reaction should be no reaction. Then comes צְּפַרְדֵּעַ, which forms an acrostic for the words צפר דע, and the letters פ and ב are interchangeable, so the words can be read as צבר דע, gather knowledge, i.e. take stock and reflect upon the matter. Once one has clarity, then he will see כִּנִּים, which means the truth. If, however, he is presented with עָרֹב, confusion, then דֶּבֶר, he should speak up and voice his concern.
HaShem should allow us to have clarity in all life situations and we should merit the day of which it is said (Yeshaya 11:9) לֹא יָרֵעוּ וְלֹא יַשְׁחִיתוּ בְּכָל הַר קָדְשִׁי כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ דֵּעָה אֶת יְ-ה-וָ-ה כַּמַּיִם לַיָּם מְכַסִּים, they will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be as filled with knowledge of HaShem as water covering the sea bed.
Have a KNOWLEDGEABLE and DISCERNING Shabbos!