I Hear You

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Beshalach listening

“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich

The Israelites escape Egypt and immediately find themselves caught between the raging waters of the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian army. They complain to Moses. “Did you take us out of Egypt to die here because there are not enough graves in Egypt?!” Moses counters and argues that God has been good to them and God will save them once again.

Then God criticizes Moses: “Why are you yelling unto me? Talk to the Israelites and go!”

Later, the Israelites complain three more times. But Moses does not counter their complaints. He does not argue. Moses goes straight to God. But God does not criticize Moses anymore.

Perhaps we can interpret God’s initial criticism of Moses creatively. The emphasis of the criticism could be that Moses should not be yelling at all and Moses should also not be yelling at the Israelites that they should just trust in God. Instead he should be talking to the people. More talking and listening, less yelling.

Moses accepts the criticism and Moses just listens next three complaints. Then he goes to God on their behalf. He resists the urge to criticize the people for their complaints and instead he just listens.

We are often tempted to invalidate the complaints of others. We disagree or point out the flaw in the complaint. We offer the obvious solution. We suggest that more faith is the solution. Moses did this too and God rebuked Moses. Stop yelling! Have a conversation and just listen. Make sure the people feel heard.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink is the founder of shulontheinternet.com.
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