This week’s Torah portion, Va’eira, begins with G-d’s reply to Moses’ question, posed at the end of last week’s reading. “Why have You allowed so much evil to befall this people?” Moses asked. “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done more evil… You have not delivered Your People.”
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob,” G-d counters.
What kind of answer is this to Moses’ seemingly legitimate complaint? Our Sages interpret this verse as a mild rebuke. “Your forefathers,” G-d says, “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were repeatedly tested, yet none of them ever questioned My motives.”
This exchange seems odd in light of the fact that, in general, the Torah goes out of its way to use only positive terms, even when referring to the lowliest beast. Every word in the Torah contains countless practical lessons to enhance our relationships with our fellow man and to apply in our service of G-d. We must therefore conclude that G-d’s response to Moses must be of practical significance in our daily lives as well.
Moses, the greatest prophet who ever lived, certainly knew of the greatness of the Patriarchs and their unquestioning devotion to G-d. In fact, because Moses stood on an even higher spiritual level than the Patriarchs, his faith in G-d and trust in Him were likewise also greater. Yet if so, how could he have complained to G-d, “Why have You allowed so much evil to befall this people?”
Chasidic philosophy explains that Moses was on the spiritual level of chachma, intellect, whereas the Patriarchs were the embodiment of midot, the emotions. Intellect always strives to understand; the nature of emotion includes the willingness to accept authority. The Patriarchs were therefore unquestioning in their submission to G-d, whereas Moses argued and questioned in his desire to comprehend.
The practical lesson we may derive from this is twofold: On the one hand, we must always endeavour to emulate our forefathers, who, even in times of adversity, had complete faith in G-d and never questioned His actions. Likewise, in our own era, now is not the time for questions as we stand on the threshold of the complete and Final Redemption. Yet at the same time, Moses’ demand of G-d is equally valid for us today.
Nowadays, as we find ourselves at the very end of our exile, an exile so bitter and confusing that the very boundaries between light and dark and between good and evil appear to be blurred, we must bear these two things in mind: A Jew must have utmost faith that all of G-d’s actions are good, that the darkness itself is leading us toward Redemption, and, at the same time, he must beg and implore G-d with all his might to fulfil His promise and bring Moshiach.
Our cry, “How long, O G-d?” is not in contradiction to our faith; rather, our G-d-given intellect dictates that we demand, “Why have you done more evil to this people?” Both intellect and emotions must work in tandem, combining the faith of our forefathers with the cry of “We want Moshiach NOW!”