The Key to Success by Aaron Victor


    The lives of Moshe and Aharon were filled with enormous accomplishments, and yet were also filled with enormous frustrations.  Almost every high point was either preceded or followed by formidable difficulties.  Nowhere, perhaps, is this more clearly seen than in this week's Parsha when Moshe Rabbeinu pours out his heart to Hashem, saying that the task he has been given is an impossible one because if Bnai Yisrael didn't listen to him, how could Paroh be expected to listen  (שמות ו:י"ב).  If Moshe has failed in every attempt to reach the hearts of his fellow Jews to whom he is closest, then how will he ever be able to touch the heart and change the mind of Paroh, who is his people's arch-enemy.  This logical deduction is so strong that Rashi cites it as one of the ten Kal  Vachomers in the Torah.

    When we try to see how Hashem responds to Moshe's feeling that he is doomed to failure, we seem to find no response.  All the next Posuk says is that Hashem commanded Moshe to take Bnai Yisrael out of Mitzrayim (שם פסוק י"ג).  Yet this response by Hashem apparently has the desired effect, for following this commandment, Moshe does go on to continue his mission.  What was hidden in Hashem's  words that gave Moshe the encouragement not to give up and to keep on trying to secure the freedom of the Jewish people?

    Rashi's explanation of this Posuk helps us understand its deeper meaning.  He says that Hashem commanded Moshe and Aharon to lead the Jewish people with patience and gentleness.  In the Midrash which is the basis for Rashi's comment, this idea is stated in even greater detail, in anticipation of the experiences Moshe and Aharon will in fact have throughout the next forty years: "Be patient with the Jewish people even if they curse you and try to stone you."

    At first glance, Hashem's response seems to be the opposite of words of encouragement to Moshe.  Moshe was frustrated because the Jewish people did not respond positively to his words.  Yet Hashem tells him that he will have to withstand even more severe reactions, including cursing and stoning, from his stubborn and hot-tempered fellow Jews.  Seemingly, this should serve to dissuade Moshe even more from continuing in his task.

    The explanation must be that Hashem told Moshe that he should never be influenced, hurt, or make a judgement based upon any strong initial negative reaction to his words.  Such reactions -even violent ones like cursing and stoning- do not reflect the true feelings of the Jewish people, but are instead superficial responses.  If Moshe will not be angered or frustrated, and instead will keep on trying to patiently guide his fellow Jews, he will indeed eventually succeed in winning their hearts and convincing them of the correctness of his words.  The Rambam (פרק ה' מהל' סנהדרין הלכה ב') therefore uses this Posuk as a proof that the quality of patience is an essential trait of leadership.  Moreover, we see that the one time that Moshe and Aharon did get angry at Klal Yisrael (at מי מריבה), it was considered such a grave sin and Chillul Hashem that they lost the right to enter into Eretz Yisrael.  We see, therefore, that any time a person, particularly a communal leader, wants to have a positive influence on others, a key ingredient to success is patience.

    The above explains Hashem's advice to Moshe on how to deal with his fellow Jews.  Rashi also explains Hashem's advice on how to deal with Paroh, saying that He told Moshe to treat him with respect.  This explanation also seems illogical.  After all, Paroh hated the Jews.  Would treating him with proper Kavod make any difference in swaying him?  We see from this advice that Hashem told Moshe that indeed it would.  Furthermore, it seems that were it not for Hashem ultimately hardening Paroh's heart, he would have agreed to Moshe's plea much earlier.

    This lesson is relevant any time that Jews are faced with the need to confront governmental leaders and attempt to change their attitude and behavior toward us.  From this Posuk we see that we should never succumb to outward anger or publicly criticize these leaders, in spite of the fact that they're acting unfairly or even harmfully to us.  All of our discussions with them must be carried out in an atmosphere of respect and dignity.


Too Much of a Good Thing by Rabbi Michael Taubes

Moshe's Question by Yosef Levine