Thursday, January 7, 2010

Parashat Shemot: Moses Complains to God

Speaking in God's Name

"O Lord, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people. You have done nothing to help Your people." (Ex. 5-22-23)

So Moses complained to God about the initial failure to bring the Jews out of Egypt. But why did Moses stress that he spoke to Pharaoh "in God's Name"? Why not just say, "From when I came to Pharaoh, he made things worse"?

The Mashal of The Detective and the Mafia

Joe 'Scar Face' Mozzarella was feeling good. An undercover detective had been making far too many inquiries about his various 'businesses.' But now they had nabbed the nosy policeman. The local mafia boss told his men to teach him a lesson about what happens to cops who are too inquisitive.

The frightened detective blurted out, "Don't you know that I work for the FBI? If you hurt me, the agency will close you down for good!"

But this outburst just made Mozzarella seethe in anger. "What, this fool thinks he can scare me with threats about the FBI? I'll show him." Scar Face told his men give the FBI agent a beating he would remember for the rest of his life.

When the detective, bruised and hurting, returned to his office, he said nothing. His boss asked him what happened to him, but he responded, "Why do you ask? Do you think you could help?"

"Come on," responded the FBI station chief. "Who did this to you?"

"It was Joe Mozzarella and his gang."

"Doesn't he know that you work for the FBI?"

"That was my mistake. I thought that if he knew I'm with the FBI, he would be afraid to touch me. But instead, they just started beating me even harder. As soon as I mentioned the FBI, Mozzarella became enraged and told his men to break my bones."

When the station chief heard this, a grim determination set in his face. "If that's the case, now you will see what we will do to him."

He then carefully set traps until they succeeded in putting Scar Face and most of his gangsters behind bars. The FBI chief's intense efforts to capture the criminal were due to the words of his agent - who had transformed the affair from a simple matter of protecting agency workers into an attack on the FBI itself.

Moses' Complaint

At the time of the redemption from Egypt, there was a judgment in the heavenly court against the Jewish people.

"Why do they deserve to be rescued?" the prosecuting angel protested. "They are idol worshipers just like the Egyptians!"

However, Moses had this foresight to present the case for the Jewish people in a different manner. "I told Pharaoh, 'The God of the Hebrews is called upon us.' Yet Pharaoh responded brazenly, "Who is this God that I should listen to Him?""

Thus, when Moses complained to God, he emphasized, "From when I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he only made things worse."

God's responded firmly, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh!"

Now God needed to rescue the Jewish people - not due to the merits of Israel, but because of the tremendous chillul Hashem, to defend the honor of His Name. As the Torah emphasizes numerous times: "So Egypt will know that I am God."

Adapted from Mishlei Yaakov, pp. 114-115