Thursday, December 31, 2015

people reflect the character of their leader

Some parsha thoughts:

1) Hashem told Moshe that if Bnei Yisrael did not believe him, he should give them a sign by pouring water before them that Hashem would miraculously turn to blood.  The Midrash is critical of Moshe for questioning the belief of Bnei Yisrael.  It explains that this sign was meant as a hint for Moshe himself, as he would be judged and found wanting when it came to the episode of Mei Meriva.  It would be his blood on the line and he would be found to be at fault through those waters.

What's the connection between these two events?  Here the pasuk is speaking about Bnei Yisrael's belief; the episode of Mei Meriva was a mistake on Moshe's part years later.  What does one thing have to do with the other?

The character of a nation is a reflection of the character of their leader.  R' Simcha Bunim m'Peshischa in Kol Simcha explains that Hashem was telling Moshe that if Bnei Yisrael don't believe him, it means he needs to search inside himself, not blame them.  If he were on a higher level of emunah, then they would be on a higher level as well.  Such a slight defect in character may not even be apparent or have immediate consequences, but down the road, at Mei Meriva, "ya'an lo ha'emantem bi l'hakdisheini," those consequences would inevitably come out.

A leader also needs to believe in his people and trust that they will follow his direction.  I thought that perhaps this is the message the Midrash is teaching us.  Moshe's sin at Mei Meriva was calling Bnei Yisrael rebellious, "Shi'mu na hamorim!"  Hashem was telling Moshe that his questioning of Klal Yisrael's emunah now, his lack of belief in them, would lead to trouble down the road.

2) At the end of the parsha, Moshe complained to Hashem that he followed directions and delivered Hashem's message to Pharoah, but as a result things got worse for Bnei Yisrael.  Now Pharoah insisted that they produce the same number of bricks, but he did not provide any straw for them.  If Pharoah's goal was simply to make people work harder, why didn't he just increase the quota of bricks they had to produce?  Why introduce this new twist of taking away the straw?

The sefer Ma'adanei Asher quotes the following pshat: Pharaoh's objective wasn't just to make people hard work -- his objective it was to spoil the midos tovos of Klal Yisrael.  When your life depends on finding every piece of straw that you can, it's hard to be nice to your neighbor who is also out looking for the same scraps.  Conflict, jealousy, and greed were bound to appear when people are competing for every crumb (it's just like working on Wall Street : ).  When Moshe complained, it wasn't Pharaoh's wickedness that bothered him - Hashem had warned him in advance that Pharoah wouldn't listen.  What bothered him was that the midos tovos of Klal Yisrael were wearing thin.  "Lamah Ha'rei'osa" - why have you made the people become bad, pick up bad midos, by allowing such a gezeirah to happen?

3) Hashem replied to Moshe that he will see what Pharaoh will get - implying, as Rashi explains, that Moshe will only see the punishment of Pharaoh, but not see the future conquest of Eretz Yisrael and the punishment of the 31 kings there.

What kind of answer is that?  Is Moshe being punished for protesting against Jewish suffering?

The Shem m'Shmuel quotes from his father that the geulah from Mitzrayim is the paradigm for all future geulos.  Had Bnei Yisrael had even had a shred of zechuyos and hope, then the geulah from Egypt would have been a geulah that assumed and built upon that foundation, and that same foundation would have been required for any future geulos.  Hashem wanted to bring a geulah that assumed nothing - a geulah that took Bnei Yisrael from the absolute lowest depths and redeemed them.  This way, in our dor or in any dor, when we are stuck at the bottom, we can still count on the possibility of redemption.

Had Moshe been the one to lead Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael, that would have been it - final tikun achieved, nothing more needed.  There would have not been other geulos to worry about.  Hashem therefore told Moshe that this was not going to happen -- there would be other stops along the road.  Future doros would be on the lowest of low levels.  Therefore, things had to get worse and hit rock bottom in Egypt so that the paradigm of complete geulah from those depths could be created.

(It's a bit troubling -- why should the dor of Mitzrayim have suffered "extra" just so there would be a paradigm of geulah that would work for all future doros?  Why should that dor have suffered more than that due because of what might be in the future?
Perhaps the answer is because they were the cause of that future.  Had they been worthy of a geulah shleima and a complete tikun, then a lesser paradigm would have been sufficient.)


  1. I know by umos olam, that hashem controls their leaders. But didn't know that by Jews, that the leaders are controlled based on the Jews.

  2. Is that a kind of maasa avos siman lbanim as by Avraham??