וידבר אלהים אל משה
And G-d spoke to Moses (Exodus 6:2)
The Midrash Yalqut Shimoni writes concerning
This refers to the verse (Psalms 50:7): "Hear, O, My people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against you: G-d, I am your G-d" (שמעה עמי ואדברה ישראל ואעידה בך אלהים אלהיך אנכי). [Note: The Midrash understands the verse to read "I will testify that you are G-d, I am your G-d] The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moses, because I have called you "G-d" - as it is written (Exodus 7:1): "See I make you as G-d to Pharaoh" (ראה נתתיך אלהים לפרעה) - "I am your G-d" (אלהיך אנכי). That is why it is written, "And G-d spoke to Moses" (וידבר אלהים אל משה). And this Midrash seems beyond comprehension.
It appears to our master to explain that one could well ask why the mission of Moses did not, at first, achieve its objective, and, on the contrary, provoked Pharaoh to intensify the enslavement of the people, just as Moses cried out (Exodus 5:23), "For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he has done evil with this people" (מאז באתי אל פרעה לדבר בשמך הרע לעם הזה). How could the trustworthy G-d not respond at all to this complaint?
However, we may explain this turn of events, relying on the Yalqut Shimoni to the verse (Hosea 2:1) "and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said unto them: You are not My people, it shall be said of them: You are the children of the living G-d" (והיה במקום אשר יאמר להם לא עמי אתם יאמר להם בני אל חי). The Yalqut on that verse offers a parable of a king who became angry at his wife and sent for a scribe to write a bill of divorce. Before the scribe arrived, the king became reconciled with his wife, so, when the scribe arrived, the king said: "Shall I just let this scribe leave empty-handed? Since he has come, let me double the value of her marriage contract." Similarly the messengers of the Deity are not sent out in vain. Thus, if messengers of rage are sent out to cause destruction, and those who were to be destroyed repent from their evil ways, the messengers of evil are transformed into angels of mercy to bestow blessings beyond measure. Thus, the Sages say about the waters of Noah, which are described as both "rain" (ויהי הגשם) and "flood" (מבול הארץ), that G-d at first caused rain to fall with the intention that, if the people would only repent, the rain would be a blessing and not a curse. However, when they persisted in their rebellious spirit, the rain became a flood to destroy all flesh. So it is with the good. If G-d sends his messengers from on high to do good, but the intended recipients turn away to do evil, G-d will change the blessing into a curse so that His messenger shall not have been sent out in vain.
Now the elders of Israel sinned, as Rashi explains in commenting on the verse (Exodus 5:1), "And afterward Moses and Aaron went" (ואחר באו משה ואהרן), because not wanting to appear with Moses before Pharaoh, they slipped away, one by one, from behind Moses and Aaron. The Elders were punished for this at Sinai as well, when only Moses was allowed to approach the Lord, but it was because of this sin that the Children of Israel were not redeemed immediately. For G-d turned the heart of Pharaoh against the Children of Israel and caused him to intensify their enslavement just so that Moses and Aaron should not have come before Pharaoh in vain. It was to this occurrence that the Midrash directed its words: "Hear, O My people, and I will speak" (שמעה עמי ואדברה). Even if I speak harshly to your enemy, be careful that you do not sin in the meantime and cause Me to turn my anger from your enemy unto you, so that my messengers shall not have been sent in vain. The passage "Eloqim Eloqekha anokhi" refers to Moses who asked profoundly "why hast Thou done evil to this people" (למה הרעותה לעם הזה) since he had been told "I have made you as a G-d to Pharaoh" (נחתיך אלהים לפרעה) meaning that Moses would be able to impose a stern judgment on Pharaoh. But instead, because of the sin of the elders that had occurred in the meantime, "I am your G-d" (אלהיך אנכי), meaning that mercy had been transformed into judgment. And to signify that a stern judgment was being imposed on the people rather than on Pharaoh the Scripture says, "and G-d spoke to Moses" (וידבר אלהים אל משה) rather than "and the Lord spoke to Moses" (וידבר ה' אל משה).
וידבר משה כן אל בני ישראל ולא שמעו אל משה מקוצר רוח ומעבודה קשה.
And Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel bondage (Exodus 6:9)
And below (Exodus 6:12) it says: "Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me" (הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה). And many have asked in wonder, was it not because of their broken spirit (קוצר רוח) and cruel bondage (עבודה קשה) that the people of Israel did not listen to Moses? If so, how does their failure to listen to Moses prove that Pharaoh certainly would not listen attentively to his words?
And it appears to our master that the Sages say in the Midrash that the reason the people of Israel did not listen to Moses was because they did not want to turn away from idolatry. The Sages apparently inferred that this was the reason because Moses's words to the people of Israel began and concluded with the words "I am the Lord" (אני ה'). This suggests that the Scripture meant to say that they did not listen to Moses when he said "I am the Lord" and that they refused to accept the Deity. And the Scripture explains this refusal with the words "מקוצר רוח," which suggests that they did not listen to Moses because they were too ignorant and simple-minded to reflect on the Deity. And the word "מעבודה" refers to their worship of בעל פעור, and "קשה" means that it was difficult for them to separate themselves from their idol. Moses, therefore, was correct to say that if the people of Israel would not listen to me to believe in the G-d of their fathers, how would Pharaoh, who does not know G-d and has not heard of Him, listen to me?
ועתה שלח העז את מקנך ואת כל אשר לך בשדה כל שאדם והבהמה אשר ימצא בשדה ולא יאסף הביתה וירד עלהם הברד ומתו.
Send therefore now, and gather your cattle, and all that you have in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die (Exodus 9:19)
It may be asked if G-d wished to kill them and to destroy them, why did He warn them that they should be gathered into their homes. If a man wishes to hit his friend with his fist does he tell him: "hurry, run away and hide from me"?
But it appears to our master that G-d only rained down hail and fire to destroy all their crops in the field to destroy their food supply and to cause them to perish of famine. The plague of hail was therefore more severe than any disease or any other plague that G-d brought upon them. Thus, Rashi comments on the verse (Exodus 9:14) "I will send all my plauges" (הנני מביא את כל מגפותי) that this plague outweighed all the other plagues. And the reason is because those who die by the sword are better off than those who die from hunger. So if most of the Egyptian cattle and much of the population of farmers and peasants had been killed in the field by the heavy downpour of hail, the hail would not have caused so great a famine, because the city dwellers would have been able to survive on the food remaining in the field after the hail had stopped. However, if the hail did not destroy the farmers or their cattle in the field, then the amount of food remaining would not be enough to support the whole population, so that many would then perish from hunger. That is why G-d said: "Send therefore now, and gather your cattle, and all that you have in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die."