Moshe receives a message from God that he is told to relay to the Jewish nation. Moshe attempts to deliver the message and is told that; “they could not hear Moshe because of their shortness of breath and because of their hard labor”. Rashi comments on the words “they could not hear Moshe” and says it’s not physical aspect of not hearing. They most definitely had ears to hear with. Rather it was more emotional that they couldn’t hear as “they were in complete despair of ever being redeemed”. Rashi additionally comments to “their shortness of breath” that “whoever is under stress, his wind and his breath are short, and he cannot take a deep breath”.
Rashi’s commentary sheds light on the deeper meaning behind their inability to hear Moshe. It wasn’t merely a physical impediment but rather an emotional barrier. The Jewish nation’s endless, and possibly more importantly, not rewarding work (quicksand not letting them see the work they have done), combined with the overwhelming burden of their situation had crushed their spirits to the point where they couldn’t fathom the possibility of redemption. Their despair became a barrier to receiving a message of hope.
This narrative resonates with the challenges we encounter in our own personal lives. There are times when we might feel overwhelmed by the weight of our life’s circumstances and in such moments, our ability to perceive hope, guidance, or messages of encouragement becomes clouded by the heaviness of despair.
Additionally, the concept of “shortness of breath” as mentioned by Rashi further emphasizes the physiological effect of stress and despair. Stress narrows our perspective, “constricts our breath”, and limits our capacity to see beyond immediate difficulties. It’s as if our ability to view things through a larger perspective is hindered when we are in a state of distress. This as well, offers us a profound life lesson as it reminds us to be aware of our emotional and mental states, especially in challenging times, as they may directly impact how we would be able to get out of whatever life has thrown at us.
In times of success and especially in times of distress, let us strive to be more attuned to ours and others emotional and mental well-being through self-awareness, “reading the room” and potential reception to listening, so that can only not only receive support, hope and encouragement, but to also offer it in the best manner possible in a way so that it will be optimally received.