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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Shmot

Parashat Shmot

Tomorrow Will Be Better Than Yesterday and the Day Before

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In another publication, we proved at length that Hashem’s command to Moshe to take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt took place at two distinct times and under different circumstances. According to the rule that the Torah does not limit itself to a chronological order, we showed that Hashem’s words to Moshe, recorded in Shemot 6, actually predated the more famous interaction that is found in Shemot 3, at the burning bush. The first time Moshe was commanded to take Bnei Yisrael out by virtue of belief in hearing the Word of Hashem. The second time, after the miracles at the burning bush, Moshe was sent to take them out with the power of miracles and signs. We will briefly see a little of how the p’sukim hint at this dichotomy.

Moshe turned to Hashem, as a response to the command that he lead Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt, saying: "I am not a man of words, not from yesterday, not from two days ago, not from the time that You spoke to Your servant" (Shemot 3:10). With all of the Divine Help he was promised, why did Moshe doubt that he would be successful in his mission? Also, why does Moshe stress "not from yesterday, not from two days ago"? Wasn’t the phrase, "from the time that You spoke to Your servant" sufficient?

We have to understand that the task of carrying out the Exodus was a difficult and complex one that took time and had different elements to accomplish. One "station" had to be reached before one could go on to the next. The first element was to convince Bnei Yisrael that the time had come for them to go free. The second was to convince Paroh that he should or would have to let them go. Along with him, Aharon and the elders were supposed to play roles, but that was not always easy, either. We see that the elders accompanied Moshe when he talked with Bnei Yisrael, but when it came to confronting Paroh, their absence is conspicuous, and Chazal, cited by Rashi, deal with the consequences of their failure.

In the aftermath of the apparently failed demand of Paroh that he let Bnei Yisrael go, there were painful consequences. Paroh increased the amount of work that they were required to do. Although they no longer received the straw with which to make bricks, they were required to produce the same amount of bricks that they did "from yesterday and two days ago" (Shemot 5:7). This phrase is repeated in this context three times, stressing its centrality to the episode. When we return back to the story of the burning bush and Moshe’s reservations about his ability to succeed, we now can understand it better. Moshe turned to Hashem and stressed to him that the "yesterday and two days ago" is the proof that he was not being successful. Those key words were the evidence that since he started his mission, things had only gotten worse. From that point, Hashem had to assure him that despite the apparent failures, He would ensure that Moshe would indeed succeed at liberating Bnei Yisrael.


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