Take a deep breath

Human beings can possess extraordinary resilience and no less extraordinary hopelessness.

In our current Torah portion, Moses returns to the enslaved children of Israel as a harbinger of excellent news. God has just promised him that everything will be good. No, wait a moment, everything will be even better! God is going to end the slavery and suffering of Jews and bring them back to the promised land.

There is just one problem. וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה The children of Israel simply do not have any spiritual resource for believing Moses and even listening to him. Their spirit has long been broken, their resilience has not been built yet. Rashi here provides a wonderful commentary that one might be tempted to connect with a current situation. Of course, this is a coincidence but an incredibly telling one.

Explaining “מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ” he writes, “If one is in anguish his breath comes in short gasps and he cannot draw long breaths.”Even more contemporary insights are given by Sforno, who expands on this verse as follows, “for it did not appear believable to their present state of mind.” The fatigue has changed their attitude to news and again, we all know it too well.

Maybe, the first step on the way to regain the belief is to simply take a deep breath.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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