Parashat B'shalah

What Are You Yelling At Me For?

Moshe's challenge as a leader was to learn the difference between the Israelites' expressions of fear and rebellion.

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Your Rashi Navigator

1. Rashi gives two opinions. Do they complement or contradict each other?

2. What is wrong with Moses praying here?

3. According to Rashi's first interpretation, what is Moses supposed to do?

4. According to his second interpretation, what should have Moses known?

5. What's the difference between praying and asking for instructions?

A Word

If Moses was crying to God, what was he asking for? We can assume that he wasn't asking for instructions, because God tells him, in so many words, to "Quit crying and get going." One medieval commentator, the Seforno, says that Moses was afraid that this group would not follow his instructions and that he would not be able to get THEM to do THEIR PART in the miracle. So, Moses was crying to God, asking for guidance on how to handle the people.

According to this interpretation, God is rebuking Moses for not seeing that the children of Israel are merely venting their fears and that Moses is not hearing the voice of rebellion but the voice of fear.

God is rebuking Moses for not being able to tell the difference between the two. God says, so to speak, "I can split the sea, but you, Moses, have to bring them across and in order to do that, you must know your people. This is not something that I will do for you."

The Seforno says that Moses wrongfully suspected them of not wishing to do God's will, instead of realizing that "it was only the fear talking." Remember, Moses never knew slavery. He has yet to become part of the people he is required to lead. At this moment, God tells him, if you wish for this people to do what I, God, tell them, then you have to know not only their words, but their hearts as well. This was Moses' challenge throughout his time in the desert and this was the criterion by which he was ultimately judged.

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Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Rabbi Avi Weinstein is the Head of Jewish Studies at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas City.