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Moshe 4: Temporary Failure

“Moses will rejoice with the gift that was his portion, for a faithful servant You called him.” (Shabbat Morning Amidah. Artscroll translates the paragraph in the past tense: “Moses rejoiced”.”)

This is based on a Midrash that when Moses was still a child, growing up in Pharaoh’s palace, he convinced the king to proclaim the Sabbath as a day of rest for the Jews as they would work better if they had a day of rest. (Shemot Rabbah 1:27) Moses had good reason to feel that he had accomplished something important for his people and for God.


Therefore, he was devastated when Pharaoh’s response to Moshe’s first visit and demand to “Let my people go!” was to cancel the day of rest that had become so important and central to them. He did not understand why the first time that he spoke in God’s Name resulted in the loss of such an important accomplishment.

When, in Marah, God instructed Moshe to teach the Jews about Shabbat, and then gave him more to teach about Shabbat when He sent the Manna, Moshe understood that he had not lost his first accomplishment. God changed it from a day off of work into a Divine gift, something so precious that it would be included in the Ten Statements.

The life of Moshe is a message to all those who feel that their efforts and striving have been for naught. He experienced that feeling when Pharaoh denied Israel their Shabbat because of Moshe. He experienced that feeling every time Israel complained or sinned. He tasted failure each time God wanted to destroy Moshe’s nation.

This prayer promises “Yismach Moshe” – Moshe will rejoice. The time came when he witnessed all his efforts bearing fruit. The Shabbat not only was restored; it became the greatest gift God shared with Israel through Moshe. (Machberes Avodas Hashem)

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