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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Why is it that You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all. (SHEMOS 5:22-23)
Once the general secretary of an organization for distributing charity in the Batei Machse neighborhood of the Old City of Jerusalem told his assistant to notify a Mrs. Rosenfeld that a sum of money had arrived for her from abroad, and she should come into the office to sign the receipt.
The assistant went quickly on his errand, but in his haste he forgot the name Rosenfeld, and went instead to the house of Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and notified him that the secretary would like him to come to his office.
Rabbi Sonnenfeld complied and went immediately to the office. Upon his arrival, the surprised secretary asked, "If the esteemed Rabbi needed me, why did he not notify me and I would have gladly come at once?"
"But I was invited by your assistant to come to see you,' responded Rabbi Sonnenfeld.
The mistake was quickly discovered. The angry secretary wanted to rebuke his assistant for his error, but the Rabbi prevented him, claiming that such a mistake is commonly made.
The Rabbi then left the office. Instead of returning directly home though, he went to the house of Mrs. Rosenfeld and told her, "The secretary would like to see you in his office. A sum of money has arrived in your name. (LA-ANAVIM YITTEN CHEN, p. 400)
Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld had complete faith in the secretary and did not question his being summoned to the office, in spite of the fact that he was the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. We must also have complete faith in our spouses in order for our marriages to succeed.
Rabbi Eliezer bar Yossi said, "Once I entered Alexandria in Egypt. I found an old man who said to me, 'Come and I will show you what my forefathers did to your forefathers. Some were drowned in the sea, some were slain with a sword, and some were crushed within buildings.'
And because of this was Moshe Rabbenu punished, as it is written, 'For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people [i.e. it has become worse for this nation.]' G-d said to him, 'It is a pity that some are gone, and there are none to take their place. [Here Rashi interprets as follows: It is a great loss that our forefathers are gone from the world, and there are no other great people to take their place.] Why, several times I revealed myself to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov with the name "E-1 Sha-dai," and they did not question My actions, and they did not say to Me, 'What is Your name?"'2 (SANDEDRIN 1lla, YALKUT 176)
Why did Rabbi Eliezer bar Yossi have to hear the X / Jewish people's plight from a gentile in Egypt in order to understand it, when it is written explicitly in the Torah? Why did the gentile give details of the different deaths that the Egyptians inflicted upon the Jews? What was Moshe Rabbenu's punishment, and how did his actions warrant it? Since we know that Moshe was the greatest prophet who ever lived, how could G-d say to him that our forefathers were better than him? What does it mean that G-d revealed himself with the name "E-1 Sha-dai?"3 What is the meaning of the question, "What is Your name,"4 that Moshe asked G-d?
The reason that Rabbi Eliezer bar Yossi had to hear the Jewish people's plight from a gentile in Egypt in order to understand it is that hearing about something when you are far away is never the same as when you are in the very place where it happened. Even though we know from the words of the Torah and the midrashim of the terrible plight of the Jewish people in Egypt, when he could see the actual sea where they were drowned, the swords which killed them, and the buildings in which they were crushed, it made a much greater impression on his soul. When Rabbi Eliezer bar Yossi witnessed all this, he was able to experience deeply just how Moshe felt, knowing that he was responsible for increasing the suffering of the Jewish people instead of alleviating it.
The gentile's vivid description of the details of the tragedy that the Jewish people suffered enlivened the imagination of Rabbi Eliezer bar Yossi. That is why our Sages took the time to enumerate the various inflictions in the Oral Tradition, so that we too, would all be able to feel the suffering more closely.
Since the rabbi now understood Moshe's feelings, he also understood why Moshe Rabbenu uttered the sentence that caused him to be punished, as it is written, "For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people." 5 Thus Moshe could not help but question G-d's ways in what appeared to be a complaint, since he was a true leader of his nation, and as such, deeply felt all their suffering.
Moshe's punishment, which is mentioned further on in the midrash, was that he was not allowed to enter the land of Israel, but rather, died in the desert. This punishment was directly related to his transgression. Moshe's whole sin was his lack of faith in G-d, as seen when he questioned G-d's actions. The punishment was fitting, because entering the land of Israel required having the utmost confidence in G-d, since there were thirty-one kings to fight there. 6Meriting the privilege to see the victory of the Jewish people over such great odds required a very high level of confidence in G-d, which Moshe seemed in some sense to lack. Even though the faith of the other Jews fell far short of Moshe's level, some of them were allowed to enter the Holy Land. The reason for this, as we have seen elsewhere, is that G-d is exacting with the judgement of tzaddikim even to the thinness of a hairsbreadth.7 And therefore what was not even considered a sin in other people was severely punished in the case of Moshe Rabbenu.
To answer the question of how G-d could say to Moshe that the forefathers were greater than he, we could answer that Moshe was the greatest prophet in terms of the clarity of his prophecy. Our Sages say that all the other prophets prophesied in an unclear vision, whereas Moshe prophesied in a clear vision.8 But this does not necessarily mean that our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov had less confidence in G-d than Moshe did. Even though we cannot judge from the above midrash whether our forefathers were greater than Moshe in any other aspect, it is clear from the midrash that in the matter of confidence in G-d, they were greater than Moshe.
G-d revealed Himself to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov with the Divine name "E-1 Sha-dai," which represents redemption from affliction, since the name means "enough." In other words, when G-d used this name He was saying that He promised them that their afflictions would cease. There would be "enough" affliction, but not one bit extra. This implies that the forefathers never questioned His promise of mercy. Moshe fell short of this, because when he saw that his people's afflictions were increasing, he did question G-d's actions.
Moshe asked G-d, "What is Your name?" 9 Of course Moshe knew G-d's name. What he was asking was, in what form G-d would take action to help them. Moshe's question showed a lack of confidence in G-d and an impatience to know what actions would be taken to alleviate their plight. It was not his place to demand that G-d reveal His intentions to him if He was not ready to do so.
Have Confidence in Your Spouse
The matter of confidence in one another is also an important ingredient in marriage. When a man asks his wife for an exact accounting of the money she spends, it is as if he is saying to her that he does not trust her. When she is late in preparing dinner and he complains about it, it is as if he is implying that she was wasting her time and not doing anything else beneficial. These comments show a lack of confidence and are very insulting.
The same applies to questions that the wife uses to probe her husband. When she asks him why he came home late from work, she is suggesting that she suspects him of having gone somewhere he should have not gone, or of having wasted his time. When she asks for an account of his spending she is insinuating that she does not trust him. These remarks hurt, and they are better left unsaid.
On the other hand, it is good for each partner to explain his actions even before a question is asked. This way a person rises above suspicion and is making his/her spouse feel better. Why let your spouse have even the slightest wrong impression about you? Always be clean and clear in your spouse's eyes.
Faith and trust in one another are a fundamental part of marriage. This component of the relationship must be built by constantly showing loyalty and devotion to one another.
1. Shemos 5:23
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network