Kenneth Cohen

Carrying the Burden

At the beginning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s address to the nation, he recounts how difficult it was for him to be the head of the Jewish people. Rashi elaborates on this and explained that Moshe had to deal with trouble makers, who were relentless in their criticism of their saintly leader.

He refers to these individuals as אפיקורסים, generally translated as heretics. They watched his every move, to be able to find fault in all that he did. If he left early in the morning, they assumed that things were not stable at home. If he left late, they made assumptions that he was receiving bad advice, that would ultimately, harm them. They were also referred to as רוגנים, constant complainers.

This was the reason he asked for help from the pious and righteous of the people, to help him carry the burden. The Midrash refers to these men as כיסופים and ותיקים. The Vatikim were elder statesmen that had a great deal of life experience. The Kisufim were people who were loved and displayed kindness to everyone.

These character traits were badly needed for a budding, new nation. These men also served as judges, in helping people work out their disputes. They were also ידועים, in that they were known to all by way of their reputations.

It sounds like Moshe Rabbeinu went through similar aggravation that our leaders go through today. Imagine how much worse it could have been for him, if he had to deal with the media of today!

We need to appreciate the dedication of those fighting for the good of the country. It is important to encourage, rather than criticize and tear down. Too often we forget how we are weakened as a people, when we lack unity. We need to take this very seriously, as we do not have a Moshe Rabbeinu, nor do we have the caliber of people that helped ease his burden.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at