Parshas Vaera

Don’t Take the Fresh Bread Away from Me!


“I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as Kell Shakkai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name, Hashem.” (Shmos 6:3)

As WWII was ending, the Nazis attempted to promote a positive image of themselves to the outside world. They sent a truck carrying fresh loaves of bread to one of the concentration camps. They also sent a camera crew to video the prisoners receiving the bread. They wanted to show how well they treated their prisoners, that they gave them fresh bread daily. When the Nazis announced to the prisoners that they were giving fresh bread, huge lines immediately formed. The smell of the fresh bread was so tantalizing. Reuven joined a huge line in eager excitement. He hadn’t eaten a piece of fresh bread in years, let alone a warm piece. He couldn’t stand still as he imagined himself eating a piece of warm, fresh bread. As the line moved closer, Reuven saw that the supply of fresh bread was dwindling. He kept davening to Hashem, “Please let there be a loaf left for me”. When he reached the head of the line, there were two loaves of bread left. He did get a loaf. Thank you, Hashem! He took the loaf and ran into the privacy of his bunkhouse to eat his new treasure. As he was about to take a bite out of the bread, a non-Jewish prisoner came into the bunkhouse and demanded the bread. Reuven refused. Reuven thought, “Hashem I have been strong in my belief up until this point. If I lose this bread, I am finished believing in you!” The non-Jewish prisoner started beating him. Hashem, Why are You doing this evil to me?!” Reuven would not let go of the bread. Even as he was being beaten and bloodied, he still did not let go of his bread. Only after was he was beaten into unconsciousness, did the bread slip out of his hands. Reuven awoke hours later. He left his bunkhouse to go outside. It was eerily silent. Reuven went a little further and saw why it was so quiet. He saw dead bodies strewn all over. The cruel Nazis had poisoned the bread. They had gotten the video footage that they had desired. They had never intended to be kind to the prisoners. Thank you, Hashem, for taking away my bread and saving my life!

Before Moshe even went to Egypt to free the Jewish People, Hashem had already told him that Pharoah would initially refuse to do so. Hashem had said that Pharaoh would not send the Jews free until Egypt was totally punished (Shmos 3:19-20). However, Moshe did not expect the strait of the Jews to become more dire due to his coming. Yet, that is what happened. Pharoah commanded that the Jews would henceforth have to find their own straw to make bricks, without reducing the number that they usually made (Shmos 5:7-8). This added burden disturbed Moshe who asked Hashem, “Why have You done evil to this People, why have you sent me?” (Shmos 5:22). Hashem responded (Shmos 6:2-3) that He had appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and they never criticized Him the way Moshe had.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 111A) explains the circumstances that could have caused the Avos to criticize Hashem. Hashem had promised Eretz Yisroel to Avraham (Bereishis 13:17). However, Avraham was unable find a place to bury Sarah until he purchased it for four hundred silver shekels. Hashem had told Yitzchak that Hashem would be with him and bless him (Bereishis 26:3). Yet, whenever Yitzchak’s servants dug a well, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with them and said that the water belonged to them (Bereishis 26:20). Hashem had promised the land to Yaakov (Bereishis 28:13). Yet, Yaakov could not find a place to pitch his tents until he purchased land for one hundred coins. In all those circumstances, each of the Avos did not question Hashem.

The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni (Chapter 176) and the Midrash Rabba (Shmos 6) indicate that Hashem was unhappy with Moshe’s criticism.  The Attribute of Strict Justice wanted to punish Moshe for it. This is alluded to by the first two words in the pasuk, “Vayedaber Elokim” (Bereishis 6:2). Elokim refers to Hashem’s attribute of strict justice. Hashem understood that Moshe’s motivation was the pain he felt for the Jewish People at seeing this harsh turn of events. Therefore, The Attribute of Mercy was invoked, and Moshe was spared. This is alluded to by the later words of that pasuk, “Vayomer Ani Hashem”, indicating kindness and mercy.

Rashi says that Moshe was punished by losing the opportunity to bring the Jews into Eretz Yisroel.

I was bothered by two questions. Firstly, what was the meaning of Hashem’s complaint that the Avos never criticized Hashem whereas Moshe did? What was the comparison? The complaints that the Avos could have potentially had, were monetary. The Avos had to pay excessive money for something that had been promised to them. Thus, they could have felt that they should have received it for free. Moshe was complaining about the added torture and pain to Klal Yisroel. Isn’t a concern about another’s pain a stronger complaint than one about money?

Furthermore, according to some commentaries, Moshe had a basis for his complaint! According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 111A. See Rashi and Chidushei Aggadot), Pharoah’s decree was not only that the Jews would have to find their own straw. They would have to produce the same number of bricks as before, and if they couldn’t, then Jewish babies would be taken and crushed into the bricks! In addition, other Jews were killed by the sword. These events only occurred after Moshe had come to tell Pharoah to free the Jews. Therefore, Moshe criticized Hashem saying, “Why have you done bad with this People…”?! (Bereishis 5:22)

The Midrash Rabba (Shmos 6:1) explains Moshe’s error. In doing so, my questions are also answered. How can any human being ever question the wisdom of Hashem’s actions which were already done? Every action of Hashem is precise. In fact, Hashem explains all His actions to the Heavenly Court, and they testify to its righteousness. How could Moshe think that he knew better than Hashem? The Midrash considers Moshe’s thoughts as foolishness. In fact, the Ben Yehoyada says that the added intensity of the servitude that occurred after Moshe’s coming to Pharaoh was beneficial! The added pain allowed the Jews to be redeemed sooner than they would otherwise have been.

Hashem runs the world in a precise and well-thought-out way, that is beyond human understanding.

Many things occur that we do not understand. We want to cry out to Hashem, “Why are you treating me badly?!” We must stay steadfast in our faith and must always remember that Hashem has a plan, for our ultimate benefit. What we perceive as bad, can, in fact, become our salvation.

These thoughts can help us weather life’s challenges.