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    Impatient spirits – Va’era

    Slavery in Egypt, from a Dutch bible, 1728

    Moses worked so hard to achieve freedom for the Israelites.

    He expected that Pharaoh would not be too eager to co-operate. But could he have predicted that the Israelites would also be unresponsive? The Torah says, “They did not listen to Moses because of impatient spirit and cruel bondage” (Ex. 6:9).

    The “cruel bondage” had taken away their dignity and independence. They obeyed their oppressors. The daily need for food and survival was desperate.

    Talk to them about God, Promised Land, freedom and future and their response was likely to be “Leave us alone!”

    The last time Moses exercised himself to secure their freedom his intervention backfired and Pharaoh came down even more heavily on them. Had the saying been known in those days, the Israelites might have said, “Give us neither your honey nor your sting!”

    Why, though, does the Torah add “impatient spirit” to the verse? The Hebrew does not quite say that. Kotzer ru’ach means really “shortness of spirit”. We would call it short-sightedness. What they lacked was the ability to look beyond the moment.

    Since Biblical Hebrew often uses a form of parallelism whereby the same thought is expressed twice, we are justified in saying that “shortness of spirit” was “cruel bondage”.

    The bondage was not merely the physical oppression but the psychological problem of coming to terms with the situation and giving up hope or thought that things might improve.

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