Sedrah Reflections – By Paul Neville (to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of his son Daniel)
In last week’s Sedrah, when Moses and Aaron told them that HaShem would redeem them from Egypt, ‘the people believed’ (Shemot 4:31). By contrast, in today’s Sedrah, when Moses again tells them that they are about to be rescued, ‘they did not heed Moses, because of shortness of breath and hard work’ (ibid 6:9).
Most commentators explain, similarly to Rashi, that the B’nei Yisrael’s spirit was ‘short’ because of the distress of the additional hard work imposed by Pharaoh, so they were not able to listen to Moses’ words of comfort.
The Seforno (d. 1550) criticises the Jewish people for not forcing themselves to listen and says that, as a result, they were punished by not being the generation allowed to enter the Land of Israel.
The Ralbag (d. 1344) notes that in contrast to last week’s Sedrah, this time it is Moses who is speaking alone, without Aaron. He cleverly turns the verse on its head by associating ‘shortness of breath’ not with B’nei Yisrael but rather with Moses himself! We know that Moses was a reluctant spokesman, repeatedly describing himself as having ‘sealed / covered lips’. His lack of ability and of self-confidence to communicate his message was the main reason that the Jewish people would not pay attention and did not believe him on this occasion.
Our prayer for Daniel on his Bar Mitzvah is that he will listen to and learn from his teachers, family and friends, and, when appropriate, be able to communicate effectively and confidently. He should grow up to be a source of credit to himself, his family and friends, of ‘nachat’ to the Alm-ghty and of inspiration to all who come to know him!