Divrei Torah

PARSHAS VAEIRA 5778

At the end of last week’s Parsha and in the beginning of today’s Parsha, we find an interesting exchange between G-d and Moshe. Moshe says to G-d, “Why did you do bad to this nation? Why did you send me to Pharaoh? Since I spoke to him, things only got worse for the Jews and You, G-d, did not save them.” G-d answered Moshe, “You wait and see what’s going to happen to Pharaoh. He will let the Jewish people leave his country. 

Then, G-d continues, in the beginning of today’s Parsha, “וארא אל  - And I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov . . . and my name of G-d I did not make known to them.” Rashi quotes a Midrash which explains, G-d said, “חבל על – Woe for those who are lost and not found. Even though the forefathers did not live to see the fulfillment of the promise that I made to them, they never questioned My word. Avraham had trouble finding a burial place for Sarah . . . Yitzchak had trouble with the Philistines . . . Ya’akov had trouble with Shechem. Yet, they never complained. However, you, Moshe, immediately asked why I made things worse for the Jewish people.”

Now, there is a major difference between Moshe and our forefathers. Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov were individuals having a hard time. Although they were going to be the founders of our nation, their hardships were personal experiences. So, they could suffer in silence. Moshe, on the other hand represented the entire Jewish people. He had to fight for them as he would so often in the future. So, why was G-d upset with him for advocating for the Jewish people?

Rabbi Yissachar Frand comments that the problem was Moshe’s choice of words, “למה הרעתה – Why have You caused bad to the Jewish people?” Moshe characterized G-d’s actions as “bad.” Although Moshe had to defend the Jewish people and speak on their behalf, he had to recognize that everything that G-d does is good.

In his position, Moshe should have understood that. That is why G-d rebuked him.

We have another such instance in Egypt. When Pharaoh asked Ya’akov how old he was, Ya’akov responded, “מעט ורעים – the years of my life have been few and bad.” According to the Midrash, G-d immediately criticized Ya’akov and said to him, “I saved you from Eisav and Lavan. I gave you back Dinah and Yosef. Now, you complain that your years are few and bad?”

After all was said and done, Ya’akov should have seen the good in all that G-d did to him. From Lavan’s household he built the Jewish family. Yosef’s sojourn to Egypt paved the way for the family of Ya’akov settling in Egypt. Ya’akov had a difficult life, but, ultimately it was not bad.

This was where Moshe made a mistake. In his great devotion to the Jewish people, due to their affliction, he lost sight of the ultimate good.

The rule in life is that we never know what is really good for us. What appears to be a great gift can be a curse and what appears to be not good can be a great blessing. Rabbi Wein records two stories:

When Theodore Herzl died in 1904, the Zionist movement invested 3 million dollars in 4% thirty year bonds of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The bonds were supposed to support Herzl’s family for life. Ten years later, with the outbreak of World War I and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the bonds were worthless. What originally appeared to be an unbelievable gift became a curse. 

On the other hand, in the early 1900’s, a Russian Jew named Wissotzky owned the tea concession for the Czar’s military operation. Since the Czar’s army numbered in the millions and tea drinking was a daily Russian custom, Wissotzky became very rich.

One day, Wissotzky was approached by the World Zionist Organization to invest his tea business in the Land of Israel. Wissotzky laughed at the idea. The Turks, who ruled the Land of Israel at the time, were difficult to deal with, the Land of Israel couldn’t produce its own tea and tea leaves from India were too costly to import.

The Zionists assured him that they would solve all of his problems. They were so persuasive that he sent them enough money to start a small tea business. In 1917 the Czar was dethroned. The Communists seized Wissotzky’s tea business. After the revolution the only asset he owned was a small company in the Land of Israel. He fled there and rebuilt his business. Today, his Israeli company still sells tea under the Wissotzky label. What appeared to be a foolhardy endeavor became a blessing and cornerstone of rebuilding for Wissotky.

We don’t know what G-d has in store . . .  either for us or the Jewish people as a whole. What we must believe is that G-d will do good for us, even if we don’t yet see it. It’s like assembling a puzzle. As we put in the pieces, we don’t know what each one is doing. However, at the end, we see the completed puzzle. That is what it is for us. We must have patience. G-d, Who is all good, will certainly do good for us.