Moshe is overcome with disappointment that somehow God has not acted as predictably and swiftly as Moshe thought he would in the process of redeeming Israel from Egyptian bondage. His complaint to God that “You have not saved Your people” and that the situation has worsened instead of improving is an understandable one. Yet, even though the facts seem to bear out the correctness of Moshe’s words, the Lord, so to speak, is disappointed in Moshe’s statements and attitude. God longs for the attitude and faith of the Patriarchs: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov who, when faced with disappointments, tests and reverses, never wavered or complained to Him about His as yet unfulfilled heavenly promises and commitments. That is the meaning, the Rabbis teach us, of the fact that God appeared to them in a less personal “Name” than he did when revealing Himself to Moshe.
It is precisely because Moshe achieved the level of “knowing” God through His ineffable and the most “personal” of God’s names, so to speak, that Moshe is more disappointed than were the Patriarchs and allows himself to express that disappointment to the God that he feels he apparently “knows” so well. It is the greatness and personal closeness of Moshe, the greatest of all prophets, that paradoxically engenders within Moshe this feeling of depression and disappointment at the apparent delay in the implementation of God’s promise to redeem Israel from Egyptian bondage. We are always more frustrated and disappointed by those that we think that we know best than we are by those who appear more distant to us.
The Talmud teaches us that Moshe’s statement to God and his words of complaint would yet somehow cost him dearly. God told him that “Now you will see” the defeat of Pharaoh and Egypt but you will not live to see the entry of the people of Israel into the Land of Israel and the defeat of the Canaanites and their thirty-one kings. God, so to speak, admires patience. It is one of the attributes and virtues recorded about the Almighty in His Torah. It is God’s sense of patience, so to speak, that allows for human life to exist as it does in front of us in our daily world.
In the imitation of God’s ways that is the core philosophy and way of life of Judaism, patience is seen as a supreme virtue. Patience with others, with one’s own family members, with one’s community and even with God Himself, is an essential hallmark of Jewish thought and attitude. If we review the lives of our Patriarchs we will readily see how patient an undemanding they truly were. They never insisted on “now” solutions and served God humbly in their unshakable belief in the validity of God’s commitments to them and their future generations. By leading the Jewish people, Moshe will also learn the value of patience and we will not again hear insistent demands from him for immediacy and speed in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.
Rabbi Berel Wein Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org