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Parshas Vaera 5759

Outline Vol. 3, # 11

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Humility of Moshe

The story of the exodus is intrinsically linked to the life of Moshe. Still, the Hagada, which retells the exodus, excludes the lifestory of Moshe -- and omits all mention of Moshe in the incidents in which he played a central role.

The reason is that the exodus was "lo al y'dei malach... v'lo al y'dei sheliach" not through an angel or agent of any kind -- only through Hashem Himself. Only Moshe -- the humblest of men -- could hide his own accomplishments to such a degree, that it would become clear that the impetus for the exodus came from Hashem Himself.

The Divre Yoel, based on Medrash, shows that this was Moshe's intention in conveying his reluctance in accepting his mission. He was trying to elicit additional promises for divine intervention, and succeeded in doing so. Yes, the exodus was not through an angel or agent of any kind -- only through Hashem Himself -- but only due to the modesty of Moshe did we merit such a redemption.

Of course the exodus was not through an angel or agent of any kind -- only through Hashem Himself. This, after all, is part of the very definition of Hashem: "I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt." Unlike other religions, we do not worship angels or agents, nor associate any human being with Hashem. However, it takes a great person -- the greatest person -- to stand beyond the human ego, to remove all barriers and obstacles, so that Hashem Himself will bring delivery.

Effort and Faith

Rav Yerucham Halevi stated a general rule: Nothing is granted without man's initial effort.

The purpose of the exodus, the purpose of the signs and wonders, was to generate faith -- a faith so real it would be physically perceived. Nonetheless, nothing is granted without man's initial effort.

Rashi explained the tradition, that whoever said the phrase "pakod pakaditi" ("I have surely remembered") would be the true redeemer. There are many questions and difficulties with this story. What was the significance of merely saying "pakod pakaditi?"

This was the sign -- in this way alone would they be redeemed -- simply by being remembered! The redemption needs nothing, only remembrance. When the barriers will be removed, and our cries heard -- immediately we will be redeemed.

The redemption would teach faith, but would itself require faith. For this reason, much time expired between Moshe's first appearance in Egypt, and the Makos (plagues). The people had to display some faith on their own, before being brought to another level of faith. (Rav Yerucham)

One who does not believe in "who took you out of Egypt" does not believe in "I am Hashem" either. (Orchos Chayim of the Rosh)


A further cause of Moshe's hesitation to accept was concern for the honor of his brother, Aharon. Aharon was older, and had been the prophet and elder statesman in Egypt. Moshe was concerned that his designated position of leadership not cause bad feelings between himself and Aharon.

Hashem replied that Aharon would rejoice in his heart to know that Moshe had received the role of leader.

How is it that Moshe misunderstood his brother's attitude to such an extent? After all, Aharon is cited in Pirke Avos as "oheiv shalom v'rodeif shalom" -- the famous lover and pursuer of peace. Aharon didn't think of himself -- he was totally devoted to the welfare of his people. It was only natural that Aharon would rejoice in the leadership of his brother. What had Moshe thought?

The Alter of Slabodka answered: Moshe was sensitive enough to realize that even a person of high character, dedicated to lofty principles, may still have the slightest personal feelings. Moshe knew all about Aharon's character, but still feared that there would be a small trace of pain.

Amazing -- when told of the deteriorated situation of the Jews in Egypt, and the urgent order to save them -- Moshe expresses concern for someone's honor and feelings. The "humility of Moshe" involved incredible human sensitivity...

Rav Yoseif Caro and the Angel

The Beis Yoseif, author of the Shulchan Aruch, was told words of Torah by an angel, or magid. The words are recorded in the "Magid Meisharim."

The Magid told the Beis Yoseif that he should do whatever he could to overcome transient thoughts. Especially during tefilah (prayer), it is important to ignore such thoughts, and focus entirely on the davening. Thoughts are neither here nor there; they cannot add to, nor take away from, the decrees of heaven.

The parsha, too, makes this message. Moshe had protested the Jews' treatment: "Why have you dealt harshly with Your People? Why did you send me?"

In saying "Why have you dealt harshly with Your People?" Moshe meant: If this is the time of redemption, why have the hardships increased? On the other hand, If this is not the time of redemption, "why did you send me?"

Hashem responded: "My ways are not your ways. In regard to your question, 'If this is the time of redemption, why have the hardships increased?' The answer is: Indeed, the time of the redemption has arrived. However, I operate with justice and mercy simultaneously." (Magid Meisharim)

The Rebbe of Preshischa explained that Moshe had not doubted the assurances of Hashem, but questioned the harshness of Hashem's method. Hashem's answer was meant to convey that Moshe was unable to comprehend the profound reasons for Hashem's conduct at this time, but that, eventually, everything would become clear. Although am advisor who criticizes the king could be punished for such brazenness, Hashem knew that Moshe was only interested in securing the best for his people.

Nonetheless, the Magid cited Moshe's question as exemplifying the point: your transient thoughts accomplish nothing, and cannot affect the decrees of heaven.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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