Rabbi Yoni Kirsch
Rabbi Yoni Kirsch Yair Yulis

An old story told of two hassidim arguing over which one's rebbe was greater. One said to the other: "My rebbe is so great that when he looks at people, he burns them, and when birds fly above his head they immediately fall dead.

The other chassid replied, "That all sounds great, but my rebbe is so great that when he stares at people, his fire keeps them alive and when birds fly above his head they don't die from his special fire!"

Did Moshe Rabbeinu display a lack of faith?

That is seemingly what happens in the parsha. Moshe Rabbeinu had a long discussion with Hashem (over a span of 50 psukim!) that takes place over an entire week (Rashi, Shmot 4:10). Hashem was trying to convince Moshe to go and redeem the Nation of Israel from Egypt. However, Moshe was resistant.

How can we understand this attitude by Moshe? Did Moshe Rabbeinu have a lack of faith in Hashem? Certainly not! We can answer by saying that the discussion was not about convincing Moshe to go and redeem his people. Rather it was about HOW the redemption would happen-- what type of approach would be used; or which model of Geula (Redemption) would be chosen.

Two different models of Geula

What Moshe Rabbeinu desired was a miraculous type of redemption, whereby Hashem is involved in a dramatic fashion. Examples would be the Ten Plagues. Signs and miracles that would openly show that he was sent from Hashem; a clear intervention that goes beyond the natural. This would all lead to Mt. Sinai, (Shmot 3:12) where Moshe would go up to heaven for 40 days without eating or drinking. Finally, he wanted Hashem to talk for him with Pharoh, and act on his behalf.

Hashem's idea was different. It can be symbolized by the bush (Sneh) that was burning and not being eaten. Our great rabbis explain (Rashi 3:12) that the burning bush represents the suffering of the Jewish people in Egypt. The Shechinah is down here on earth, working with the people in a natural way. The Geula can be accomplished in a natural way, just as the fire burned the bush in a realistic way and did not lead to the destruction of the world. Hashem is agreeing to assist us, but the responsibility to take be proactive is on us.

The meaning for the future

In conclusion, Moshe, of course, did not lack in faith. He merely wanted to redesign the Geula from Egypt in a supernatural way with open miracles. This led to the entire narrative of the Book of Exodus (Sefer Shmot), and altered history forever.

We still disagree, however, over whether the final Geula will be of a natural style, openly miraculous, or perhaps a combination of the two.

Rabbi Yonatan Kirsch was born in NJ but grew up in Ginot Shomron after his parents moved to Israel. He teaches at the Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot, where he lives with his wife and family, after receiving his semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is author of the book "Ma'alot Hamikve", published by Dabri Shir, and served as a combat soldier, is a certified tour guide.