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