|Now that God has arrived on the scene, the Israelites should be fully confident that their burdens will be removed. When Moshe and Aharon communicated God’s intentions through symbolic acts and words in last week’s Torah reading, the people believed. But when their leaders’ first foray into Pharaoh’s palace fails, they fall even deeper into despair.
Of course, even Moshe needs a dose of reassurance, and at the beginning of this week’s parshah, Vaera, God promises to redeem the Israelite in what should be heard as no uncertain terms. But the Israelites aren’t ready to hear it: “But when Moses told this to the Israelites, they would not listen to Moses, mikotzer ruah umei’avodah kashah” (Exodus 6:9)
This last phrase has been translated in a variety of ways. Kotzer ruah could be , as the old JPS translation rendered it, “impatience of spirit;” the newer version says “their spirits crushed.” The most literal translation is “shortness of breath.” All of these make a degree of sense, and are understandable under the circumstances that the Israelites had to endure.
On Shabbat morning, we will study some of the classic commentators on this phrase, and we will have no problem finding modern applications of the ailment of kotzer ruah.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise