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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parshas Shemos

Exodus 6:1 And Hashem said to Moses "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by [My] strong hand he will let them go."


Now you will see, etc.: Rashi: You have questioned My ways, not so Abraham to whom I said 'for through Isaac you will have descendents' and afterwards I said to him 'Bring him up as a sacrifice' yet he did not question My ways. Therefore 'Now you will see . Only that which will be done to Pharaoh will you see, but not (later) that which will done to the kings of the seven nations when I will bring them (Israel) to the Land."

What Is Rashi Saying?

Rashi is telling us that G-d is chastising Moses for his criticism of G-d's ways ("Why have you done evil to this People?"). Moses didn't have the same unquestioning faith in Hashem as Abraham did. And for that he would be punished. His punishment: Not being allowed to bring the People of Israel into the Land of Canaan. Rashi's interpretation is clearly based on G-d's words "Now you will see…" Now, but not later.

But on this drash we can ask a basic question:

Your Question:

Questioning Rashi

A Question: We are all familiar with the reason that Moses was not allowed to enter the Land of Israel. In the Book of Numbers (chapter 20) we are told the story of the People's request for water in the desert and Moses hitting the stone in an effort to satisfy their need. There it says (20:12) "Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land…"

How then can Rashi say on our verse that the reason Moses did not lead the People into Israel was because he showed a lack of faith in his reaction to Pharaoh's worsening the conditions of slavery ?

Can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi

A Possible Answer: In order to understand this better we must understand the man, Moses. We are told that when he grew up (in Pharaoh's palace) Moses went out to see his brothers (2:11) "And it was in those days when Moses was grown that he went out to his brothers and to see their sufferings." Rashi her comments that he wanted to identify with their suffering. The lines of Moses' personality are well described in the Torah. He was a man who intervened to save others (see the next verses 13-17) He was man who could not tolerate the pain of others. (See Numbers 11:15). Here too we see the expression of this trait. Moses is terribly upset by seeing that the suffering of his people had increased, and not decreased, after he followed G-d's command to meet with Pharaoh. This was his heartrending outcry "Why have You brought harm to this people?"

When we look at story of Moses' sin in Numbers 20 we see that the people complained a bitter complaint. They had no water to drink. Moses receives instructions from Hashem to take his staff to the rock. Moses hits it twice. The word "pa'amayim" ("twice") implies an urge to get things done quickly, in haste, without delay. (See Judah's speech to his father in Genesis 43:10) Here we see Moses' character trait of his inability to tolerate the suffering of others, even for a moment, come into play. His overwhelming desire to get water to the people interfered with his ability to follow G-d's word to the letter.

Now we can understand our Rashi. Moses' inability to tolerate the pain of his people as expressed in our verse, turned out to be his fatal flaw. Because of this same trait he sinned at the Rock, for which he was banned from entering Eretz Yisrael.

The noble trait of the leader to care for his people, can be a two edged sword, when this is opposition to the word of G-d.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

The Institute is in the process of preparing the fourth hard copy volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?" Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il

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