Imagine you have been working in manual labor for years and years. You are tired, demoralized, drained and frustrated. One fine day, some new fellow on the floor stands up and promises a whole new world of equality, rewards and ultimate freedom. Do you believe him or are you beyond hope?
Our ancestors in Egypt were slaving away all those years. Suddenly, Moses appears and started making promises. He came with a message from G‑d that they are about to be redeemed. All is not lost. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Jews' response? And they did not listen to Moses out of shortness of breath and from the hard labor.
One commentary explains that the Hebrew for breath is ruach, which can also mean “spirit.” Moses' call to the Israelites for freedom was not answered because they lacked breathe, but because they had lost the spirit, and will to resist. Having suffered in bondage for so long, they no longer had the faith or hope to believe that freedom was still within their reach.
The people of Egypt were utterly despondent and spiritless. They could not absorb Moses' message. How could an entire nation ever walk free, if no one ever escaped Egypt? It is just not realistic to hold out such high hopes only to have them dashed yet again.
It happens all too often. People become so set in their mediocrity that they give up hope of ever achieving the breakthrough. Marriages get stuck in the rut of routine and the tedious treadmill keeps rolling along until we lose even the desire to dream. People stay at dead jobs because it takes too much effort to start the job search and look for something better.
“If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. Money comes and money goes. If you lose your health, you’ve lost half. You are not the person you were before. But if you lose your resolve, you’ve lost it all.”
Moses gave hope to a depressed nation. He gave them back the spirit they had lost and eventually, through the miracles of G‑d, the promise was fulfilled and the dream became destiny.
To be out of breath is normal. To be out of spirit is something the Jewish People can never afford. May we never lose the spirit.
Candle lighting time in NYC: Friday, 4:41 PM