Shmot - Darkest Before the Dawn

'O L-rd, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people. You have done nothing to help Your people.'
G-d said to Moshe, 'Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh. He will be forced to let them go.'
וַיָּשָׁב משֶׁה אֶל ה  וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה לָמָּה זֶּה שְׁלַחְתָּנִי וּמֵאָז בָּאתִי אֶל פַּרְעֹה לְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמֶךָ הֵרַע לָעָם הַזֶּה וְהַצֵּל לֹא הִצַּלְתָּ אֶת עַמֶּךָ וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל משֶׁה עַתָּה תִרְאֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה לְפַרְעֹה כִּי בְיָד חֲזָקָה יְשַׁלְּחֵם וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה יְגָרְשֵׁם מֵאַרְצוֹ
(Shmot 5:22 - 6:1)

Moshe shows his frustration and disappointment after his initial confrontation with Pharaoh. Not only did Pharaoh not give any regard to Moshe's request to let the slaves leave and sacrifice to G-d in the desert, but even worse, Pharaoh then made the work of the Hebrews even harder, by no longer providing straw for bricks, requiring the Hebrews to gather their own straw (Shmot 5:1-7).

In the verses at hand, from the end of the parsha, we see that Moshe questions G-d on two counts: why allow the Jewish people to be mistreated, and why was Moshe sent as the primary representative. In responding, G-d says "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh" as opposed to just 'You will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh'

Why Now
What is the significance of Moshe's questions? Would it not have been enough to just question the treatment of the Jewish People, and why does G-d respond by starting with the word 'Now'? How does Moshe's questions reflect on his level of faith, especially with the injunctions and directives handed down directly from G-d, does this show a weakness in faith?

Rashi notes the exchange that occurs in these verses and comments, "He questions [G-d's] character, unlike Avraham, "G-d said to Avraham, 'Do not be troubled because of the boy and your slave. Do everything that Sarah tells you. It is through Isaac that you will gain posterity.'" (Breisheit 21:12) and after that G-d said "'Take your son, the only one you love - Isaac - and go away to the Moriah area. Bring him as an all-burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will designate to you.'" (Breisheit 22:2). Avraham did not consider questioning G-d's character. Therefore the verse "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh" is coming to describe what Moshe will see done to Pharaoh and that he will not see what will be done to the kings of the 7 nations when Am Yisrael conquers the land of Caanaan."

Rashi illuminates these questions, yet in a cryptic way. He starkly contrasts the unfailing faith of Avraham to the seeming hesitancy of Moshe, but how does the plight of the 7 nations at the hands of Am Yisrael answer the issue of using the word 'Now'?

Moshe's Mission
The Siftei Chachmim expands on Rashi's points, noting that this encounter follows Moshe's earlier assertions to G-d, questioning his own suitability for confronting Pharaoh and for conveying the word of G-d to the Jewish people (Shmot 4:1). 
"If Moshe would not have said 'Why did You send me?' and only said 'why do You mistreat Your people?' this would not have angered G-d.
"Rather, Moshe seemed to make everything dependent on whether his mission was worthwhile or just for nothing and was embarrassed to think his mission was seemingly meaningless. Otherwise he wouldn't have appeared to question the character of G-d."

This clarifies the situation and Rashi by adding that G-d was angry as a result of Moshe's questions. But what was making Him angry and  how did He express his anger. It is almost like the conversation between G-d and Moshe is much longer and more involved and the Torah has only showed the highlights.

The Kli Yakar expands on Moshe's concern about his part in the mission. "At least if his mission was just  meaningless, then  it shouldn't be harmful. But that is exactly what Moshe saw, that out of his own actions the conditions for the Jewish People got worse. And Moshe could have thought to himself 'Maybe I was the cause of all this, since representatives sent to Pharaoh had a heavy mouth and language like me and this what angered Pharaoh even more. This is why Moshe asks 'Why did You send me?' or in other words what was the point of sending me.

The Plight of the 7 Nations
This shows the concerns, doubts and fears of Moshe. The Gemara that Rashi referenced brings in the missing pieces and fills out the dialog.

Sanhedrin 111A
And for this Moses was punished, as he said, 'As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people. You have done nothing to help Your people.'
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘Alas for those who are gone and no more to be found! For how many times did I reveal Myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the name of El Shad-dai, and they did not question my character, nor say to Me, What is Your name?
'I said to Abraham, Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it,’ for I will give it to you: yet when he sought a place to bury Sarah, he did not find one, but had to purchase it for four hundred silver shekels; and still he did not question My character.
'I said to Isaac, Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee: yet his servants sought water to drink, and did not find it without its being disputed, as it is said, And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen saying, The water is our's; still he did not question My character.
'I said to Jacob, The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed: yet he sought a place to pitch his tent and did not find one until he purchased it for an hundred kesitah; nevertheless he did not question My character; nor did they say to me, What is Thy name?
'And now you say to Me, You have done nothing to help Your people.
[Therefore] "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh." You will see the war against Pharaoh, but not the war against the thirty one kings.’
And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.

This piece of Gemara clears up the situation, showing that G-d was clearly angered by this absolute lack of faith. The greatness of the patriarchs was their ability to remain faithful even when facing incredible strife and hardship in their lives. The commentators cover this Gemara and we learn here that this is the beginning of Moshe's punishment, not just at the point where he hit the rock. (Bamidbar 20:1-13). At this point Moshe's punishment is not to see the full conquering of Eretz Yisrael, but only to enter and be buried there.

Weren't the Jewish People Suffering
But wasn't Moshe's question valid. Didn't he have a point to question the negative impact his appearance before Pharaoh had on the enslaved Jewish people? This situation was entirely different than with the patriarchs. With the patriarchs, they were each given a promise from G-d, but when they themselves faced hardship, they remained steadfast. However Moshe's concern isn't about G-d keeping His promises to Moshe about Moshe's future, but Moshe's concern is how the Jews have now been affected.

The Kli Yakar addresses this side as well. He explains that "There is a well known phenomena that every day at the moment before dawn, it is the darkest darkness from all the night. And in the winter, just before the sun rises the cold worsens, but is eventually overcome by the rising sun. Since everything in the natural order feels a resistance from the opposite side that wants to nullify it. And likewise when Pharaoh worsened the conditions for the Jews he was acting out a natural force, resisting the end that was growing closer. And when the time of redemption grows close and will nullify all of the activities of Pharaoh. This is why G-d says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh. He will be forced to let them go." Pharaoh was forced to release them, and so we see this miraculous action of Pharaoh intensifying the work for Am Yisrael as he senses the end.

We are not Moshe and do not have direct dialogs with G-d. Yet we can also slip in our faith, and feel like everything we are doing is for nothing, a waste. Sometimes life sends extremely difficult circumstances and challenges and we may question, is it worth it. Yet we must push forward, and remain firm in our faith and our commitment to Torah and Mitvot. For at this moment if may feel the coldest as cold can be, and may seem as dark as ever, but we don't realize that the powerful morning sun is just around the corner, waiting to push away all these troubles.

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