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Shir ha-Shirim II: Fueling Our Work With Aspiration

Another explanation, “Do you see a man diligent in his business,” this applies to Moshe our master, in connection with the work of the Mishkan. Therefore, “he shall stand before kings,” the king is Pharaoh, as it says, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh (Exodus 8:16).”


“He shall not stand before darkened men,” the darkened man is Yitro, who was obscure in comparison with Pharaoh.

Rabbi Nechemiah said, you have made the holy, profane! (The King should refer to someone great and notable, which Pharaoh was not in comparison with Moshe.) Rather: “He shall stand before kings,” the “King” here is the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed is He, as it sets, “and he was there with God 40 days (Exodus 34:28).” “He shall not stand before dark man,” the “dark man,” is Pharaoh, as it says, “and there was sick darkness (10:22).”

I understand Rabbi Nechemiah’s approach far more than the opening of the midrash. Moshe stood before Pharaoh long before he was diligent in his work with the Mishkan. How can the midrash say that he merited it standing before Pharaoh because he was so diligent in his work on the Mishkan?

Moshe did stand before Yitro! What does the midrash mean when it says that because Moshe was so diligent in his work that he did not have to stand before the dark man, Yitro?

The midrash is describing Moshe as a man always “diligent in his business,” all his work, and the work witnessed at the Mishkan was only one example of Moshe’s essence as a diligent worker. The midrash is telling us that the reason Moshe was chosen to stand before Pharaoh was because he was a diligent worker. A powerful lesson indeed for those who desire to stand before the Ultimate King! We will have to become diligent workers.

What about Yitro? Moshe never had to stand before Yitro as a supplicant, or as an adversary. In fact, he stood before Yitro as a King himself. Yitro was a great man, however, our “diligent man,” Moshe, aspired to stand only before the most powerful, the King.

This midrash is teaching us that even when we become the “diligent workers” who can stand before kings, we must diligently work at standing before only the greatest King. Our diligent work must be fueled by our aspirations for greatness.

As we work to prepare for Pesach, and ultimately stand before the King on Shavuot, we must work diligently, aspiring to the culmination of Pesach, when we can stand at Sinai.

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