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The comparison of the complaint of Moshe to God about His lack of compassion regarding the enslaved and persecuted Jews in Egypt, to the more sanguine acceptance of God’s will by the patriarchs of Israel of an earlier generation is somewhat puzzling. Moshe’s complaint is really a cry of anguish and pain over the desperate situation of the Jews in Egyptian bondage rather than a statement of disbelief or denial of God’s intent to deliver the Jews from their bondage. So, why is the implied criticism of Moshe justified and the subject of much discussion in the Talmud, Midrash and Rashi?

At first glance, it seems to be slightly harsh and unjustified. This issue has been the subject of much rabbinic contemplation and insight over the centuries. Here I will advance one of the many possible interpretations of this matter. Moshe was speaking of an existential crisis facing an entire people so that the Jewish future itself, so to speak, was in danger of destruction. The patriarchs faced only personal, individual challenges and trusted that God’s promises and plans would nevertheless be fulfilled somehow, even if not through them.
However, once Israel became a nation and no longer just individuals, the stakes of failure increased. This caused Moshe’s reaction, as this is what he believed to be the case. However, the Lord, so to speak, taught Moshe that the fate of individuals in His eyes, again so to speak, is equal to the fate of large and mighty nations.  And, though the patriarchs realized their cosmic and historic importance and were threatened by extinction, they never expressed their doubts or criticisms to God.
Here Moshe was being taught the lesson of the value and importance of individuals, those that shape and propel human history and progress. God’s complaint to Moshe, so to speak, was that he underestimated the worth of an individual and also underestimated the true greatness and value of the patriarchs of the Jewish people.
This fits the general theme expressed throughout Jewish tradition that Moshe would always be treated differently than others by Heaven, simply because of his greatness of character and breadth of vision and prophecy. Anyone else that would have complained to God about the brutality of the Egyptian bondage of Israel would perhaps be considered a hero. But Moshe’s level of prophecy and attachment to God was so extraordinary that he was held accountable for even the smallest misunderstanding caused by his words or deeds.
Even a cursory reading of the biblical narrative from beginning till end will inform one that the greater the stature of the person, the more miniscule the room for error in spiritual and public areas of speech and behavior. This was a lesson well learned by the patriarchs. Now Moshe would also receive training in this most important axiom of Jewish life. From now on he would always compare himself to the other great individuals of the Jewish story – the patriarchs. He never again would find himself wanting in this respect.
Rabbi Berel Wein      
Shabbat shalom

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