"They Did Not Listen to Moshe"

  • Harav Yehuda Amital
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion





The Yeshiva wishes a warm Mazal Tov to Rav Mordechai and Debby Friedman and family upon the bat-mitzva of their daughter Rachel Shira!



"They Did Not Listen to Moshe"

Summarized by Matan Glidai

Translated by Kaeren Fish


            Our parasha begins with a most important message that God wants to convey to Bnei Yisrael via Moshe:


"I shall take you to be My people, and I shall be your God… and I shall bring you to the land which I swore to give to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov, and I shall give it to you as a heritage." (6:7-8)


            These lofty words, speaking of redemption – the establishment of Am Yisrael as God's nation, and the inheritance of the land – fall on deaf ears.  Bnei Yisrael "do not listen to Moshe, for anguish of spirit and because of hard labor" (verse 9). 


            How can it be that such an important, meaningful message is not accepted or even given attention?


            It seems that the verse should not be understood literally.  Bnei Yisrael did hear Moshe's words, but they were so overwhelmed with their bondage and suffering that they were unable to absorb and internalize the significance of the message.  They heard it only superficially, without understanding it in all its depth.


            The Rebbe of Kotzk used to ask, concerning the verse, "You shall place these words of Mine upon your hearts" (Devarim 11:18): what does it mean to place words upon one's heart? His answer was that there are situations in which the heart is closed, unable to receive words; one may then place words only "upon" the heart, not inside it.  When the heart opens up, then the words that a person has placed there will sink in.


            The midrash provides a similar explanation for the repetition in the verse, "Say to the kohanim, the children of Aharon, and you shall say to them" (Vayikra 21:1):


"For supernal beings, who have no evil inclination, a single utterance will suffice, as it is written: ‘The matter is by decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones’ (Daniel 4:14).  But for the lower beings who possess an evil inclination – if only two utterances would suffice!" (Vayikra Rabba 26:5)


            The midrash explains that Moshe was commanded to convey God's message to Aharon's sons twice, so as to contend with the evil inclination.  In order to internalize things in this world – a world characterized by the constant, unremitting challenge of the evil inclination – things must be said more than once; only then may they trickle inwards.


            It was for this reason that Bnei Yisrael did not listen to Moshe.  They heard what he said, but were not yet able to internalize his message.  They would have to undergo a lengthy process of internalization before the tidings would be properly absorbed.


In Sefer Yirmiyahu (2:2), we read: 


"I remember unto you the kindness of your youth, your love as a bride, when you walked after Me in the wilderness, in an unsown land."


If Am Yisrael agreed to walk after God in an unsown land, then apparently they did ultimately absorb the message that God began to convey in our parasha.  The process took time, but eventually the nation achieved the requisite state.  In the beginning it was difficult to absorb the message because of the suffering and hard labor, the difficulty of abandoning idolatry (see Midrash Rabba 6:5), or perhaps because the message was too great.  But eventually, after a process of inculcation, the nation succeeded in internalizing what God was telling them.


            What we learn from this is that even if sometimes there are great matters that we are not able to absorb and internalize all at once, we must not despair.  We must go over them again and again, and ultimately we will achieve our aim.