At the end of last week's Parsha, Shemos, Moshe saw that the Jewish people were not only not being set free, their slave labor was increased. Before Moshe arrived to free the Jewish people, the Egyptians were giving them straw with which to make bricks. Now that Pharoah saw that the Jewish people were talking about going free he ordered that they should no longer be given straw. Pharoah insisted that the Jews still make the same number of bricks, even though they would now have to gather their own straw as well.
Moshe complained to Hashem and questioned- why are you, Hashem, increasing the hardship on the Jewish people? At the beginning of this week's Parsha Hashem responds to that charge. Rashi explains that Hashem responded with a 'tone of judgement' because of what Moshe had asked.
What was wrong with what Moshe asked Hashem? It would be important for Moshe to understand Hashem's ways. That is what learning Torah is all about! So why did Hashem 'punish' Moshe by responding with a 'tone of judgment'?
There are different ways to ask a question. In the Hebrew language there is something called a 'shaila' which means a question and there is something called a 'kasha' which also means a question. However, these are two very different types of questions. A shaila is when someone doesn't know something and he asks to understand. A kasha, however, is when you think something is wrong and you ask in order to convey that the thing under question is wrong. Both people are asking, but they are doing two completely different things. One who is asking a shaila is presuming that he, the questioner, is deficient and lacking understanding. On the other hand, one who asks a kasha presumes that the other person, the one the kasha is on, is deficient and mistaken in some way.
Rashi notes that Moshe asked a kasha on Hashem. Moshe was, to some very slight degree, not just asking to understand but rather being critical of what had happened to the Jewish people.
There are a couple of lessons that we can learn from this episode:
- One needs to be sensitive to the way they do things. Doing the same exact thing as someone else, but doing it in a different manner can make all of the difference between something being correct and incorrect. To ask a shaila to understand is very laudable, to ask a kasha to disprove is not always appropriate.
- From the fact that Hashem spoke to Moshe in a way that conveyed judgement as a punishment, we see that speaking in such a manner is in fact a punishment! We often think that we don't need to speak nicely, as long as we don't speak harshly. Hashem punished Moshe for having been out line in his questioning of Hashem by speaking to him- not harshly, but with a tone of judgement. In talking to others we need to keep in mind that: A) speaking nicely or pleasantly is not extra credit, it is doing what you are supposed to. And B) before we do speak with a tone of judgement to others we should tread very carefully in our 'punishment' of someone else.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer