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"Why Have You Sent Me?"

  • Harav Yehuda Amital
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion




“Why Have You Sent Me?”

Summarized by Shaul Barth

Translated by Kaeren Fish



Last week’s parasha ended with Moshe’s complaint to God: “Why have You done evil to this nation; why have You sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, things have become worse for this nation, nor have You saved Your nation.” God answers him: “Now you will see that which I will do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he shall cast them out of his land.”


Rashi criticizes Moshe for his complaint, suggesting that God takes a dim view of his outburst: “You are questioning My attributes – unlike Avraham, whom I told, ‘For in Yitzchak[’s name]  shall your seed be called’ [yet he did not question why I then commanded him to offer Yitzchak; rather, he believed in My promise with perfect faith].”


I do not know why Rashi criticizes Moshe. Moshe wasn’t objecting because it was difficult for him, or because he was lazy. He complained to God because he saw the suffering of Am Yisrael, and – as a good leader – he wanted to help them. So why suggest that God is displeased with his appeal?


Perhaps we may interpret Moshe’s question in a different way.


In Yehezkel 20, the prophet recounts that at the time of the Exodus, God came to Bnei Yisrael and said to them: “Let every man cast out the abominations of his eyes, that you not become defiled with the idols of Egypt." In response, “They rebelled against Me and did would not listen to Me… Then I resolved to pour My wrath upon them, to exhaust My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for My Name’s sake…" In other words, they deserved to be destroyed, but in order not to desecrate His Name, God refrained from destroying them and instead He took them out of Egypt.


There were two modes or aspects of this redemption: ideally, God meant to take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt through His mercy. But since they were not prepared to abandon their idolatry, they were not worthy of this mode of redemption. Therefore God took them out “for the sake of His Name," rather than because of their actions.


In light of this, we can understand that the Torah is really describing two different missions that God gave to Moshe – one in parashat Shemot and the other in parashat Vaera. It is for this reason that Moshe stands before God, after he has undertaken the second mission – which is supposed to involve unconditional redemption – and says: If You are continuing to punish Israel, and You are not redeeming them for the sake of Your Name, unconditionally, then “Why have You sent me?” Why did You give me the second mission, rather than continuing the first one, in which there was some purpose to punishing Bnei Yisrael for their sins?


Therefore God answers him, “Now you will see that which I will do to Pharaoh." In other words: perhaps you think that I am punishing them, but really I am readying them for the Exodus, for it is impossible to bring them out without any preparation at all. But “now you will see” – now I will bring them out, and it won’t take as long as you think, because this mission is undeed unconditional; it is immediate.


We may view the two assignments to Moshe as paralleling two types of redemption.  The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) derives that there are two types of redemption from a verse in Yeshayahu (60:22), “be-itah achishena”: redemption “be-itah, at its time," and the redemption of “achishena, I shall hurry it." God wanted to redeem Israel by virtue of their merit – i.e., a redemption of “I shall hurry it.”  However, they sinned and continued worshipping idols, and therefore God “changed gears,” as it were, and performed a redemption “in its time.” This redemption would be a longer process, developing through negotiations with Pharaoh, followed by miracles and plagues. It is possible that were it not for their sins, they would have been redeemed immediately, in an instant.  Yet since they did not merit this, God redeemed them only for “the sake of His Name,” in a more gradual fashion, accompanied by the ups and downs noted by Moshe in his complaint to God.


(This sicha was delivered on leil Shabbat parashat Bo 5762 [2002].)