From "I Should've," to "I Could've"
One of the most constant refrains I hear from people is, “I should…” or, “I should have…”
All those “shoulds” are heavy burdens. “I should be more patient.” “I should be more of a Tzaddik.” “I should daven better.” “I should be more careful with my speech.”
The “should haves” are even worse: “I should have said…” I should have controlled my anger.” “I should have done better.” Guess what, it’s too late. “Should haves” are meaningless but heavy burdens to shoulder.
I prefer the “I could,” or “I could have,” approach. I could implies “I can” change, improve, and grow. “I could have” implies that I have the capacity to better handle difficult situations.
Rashi in this week’s portion compares the travels from Rephidim to the arrival at Sinai: “They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai.” Rashi comments, “Just as they arrived at Sinai in Teshuva, so they journeyed from Rephidim in Teshuva.”
We learn that they left Rephidim in a state of Teshuva only from their arrival at Sinai. Why does the Torah wait until their arrival at Sinai to teach us that they did Teshuva when they left Rephidim?
Rephidim was looking back at a mistake. Sinai was looking forward. Rephidim was “We should have…” Sinai’s Teshuva was “I could have.” The former was regret. The latter was a Teshuva of expectation.
Rashi is telling us that their journey from Rephidim to Sinai was from “I should have,” to “I could have,” from regret to expectation.
It is only in a state of expectation, “I could,” that we could be ready for Revelation.
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