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Thursday, January 14, 2010

And While We're At It--Kvetching by Moshe

שמות פרק ה
(כב) וַיָּשָׁב מֹשֶׁה אֶל יְקֹוָק וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה לָמָּה זֶּה שְׁלַחְתָּנִי:(כג) וּמֵאָז בָּאתִי אֶל פַּרְעֹה לְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמֶךָ הֵרַע לָעָם הַזֶּה וְהַצֵּל לֹא הִצַּלְתָּ אֶת עַמֶּךָ:
Exodus Chapter 5
(22) And Moshe returned to God and he said, “Lord, why have you made it bad for this nation—why have you sent me? (23) Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, You have made it bad for this nation and You have surely not saved your nation.

Moshe asks two questions of God:

1)Why did God make it worse for the Children of Israel and
2)Why did God send him (Moshe) on this mission?

Moshe also makes two claims against God:

1)Ever since he (Moshe) spoke in God's name to Pharoah, God has made things worse for the Children of Israel and
2)God has not saved the Children of Israel.

The next passage has God's response. We will want to see if and/or how God responds to Moshe's questions and claims.

What we see first of all is that various names of God are used in the next few verses.  Although we see different names for God in other places, in this particular context at least some of those names provoke particular interest here because God Himself (or Herself—can't get into that whole bit now) points out and seems to differentiate between names. To wit:

[פרק ו] (א) וַיֹּאמֶר יְקֹוָק אֶל מֹשֶׁה עַתָּה תִרְאֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה לְפַרְעֹה כִּי בְיָד חֲזָקָה יְשַׁלְּחֵם וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה יְגָרְשֵׁם מֵאַרְצוֹ: פרשת וארא (ב) וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי יְקֹוָק:
(ג) וָאֵרָא אֶל אַבְרָהָם אֶל יִצְחָק וְאֶל יַעֲקֹב בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי וּשְׁמִי יְקֹוָק לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם:

[Chapter 6](1) And God יהוה said to Moshe, “Now you will see that which I will do to Pharaoh—for with a strong hand he will send them and with a strong hand he will expel them from his land. Parshat Vaera (2) And the Lord spoke to Moshe and He said to him, “I am God יקוק.”
(3) And I appeared to Avraham and to Yitzchak and to Yaakov through Eil Shaddai אל שדי whereas my name God יהוה I did not manifest to them.”

Technical note:

1)Bear in mind that Chapter divisions in the Torah (and the rest of Tanach) were made by Christian monks in the middle ages and are not part of the original Hebrew text. 
2)The divisions between the weekly Torah portions were established by custom and are also not necessarily reflected in the way the text is written or laid out.

The point being that when we try to read the text in a way that maintains continuity, we need to read the last verses from the end of Parshat Shmot (the ones where Moshe is complaining) along with the beginning verses of Parshat Va'era. It is important to note, though, that in an actual Torah scroll, there is a large space placed between the end of Chapter 6 v.1 and Chapter 6 v.2.

More soon....


  1. interesting
    about the chapter division
    though i bet no charedi would ever admit it
    it is good to question and i personally think it is a jewish tradition to always question and challenge the divine or authority
    most recently a friend of mine and i discussed how jewish kids seem to challenge authority more than their counterparts , could be part of this tradition of asking questions the more orthodox stream seems to deny but is clearly seen here

  2. I am not sure if the Charedim would deny the chapter division thing--I don't think it would be a point of faith with them either way although they may be ignorant of this fact. Hard to generalize, really.

    I think that the story here with Moshe demonstrates a healthy aspect of his relationship with God, namely his willingness to challenge authority, as you point out. We see it likewise with Avraham and with others although there are differences. Perhaps we'll touch on those in later posts.