I Care For You
הרב צבי דוידסון
As Am Yisrael reach Refidim, they discover there's nothing for them to drink, the people criticise Moshe demanding water. Moshe deflects them, "Don't start up with me and don't test Hashem!" Eventually the people, now thirsty, complain to Moshe again, and this time he doesn't even respond to them, rather he shouts out to Hashem "What can I do with this nation, in a moment they'll stone me!"
At this point Hashem interjects and instructs Moshe to take his staff, strike the rock and provide water for the nation, but interestingly, Hashem precedes this with the instruction to "Pass before the people"(Shemos 17:5)
The meforshim question what the purpose of this extra instruction of passing before the people was, what did it come to achieve?
ֲֲ Rashi understands it to be mussar for Moshe, let's see if they'll actually stone you! Why do you speak against my children? They may complain, but don't suspect them of murder! This lesson was so important it had to precede even the needs of the people temporarily, to put Moshe in his place and teach him to judge the nation favourably.
The Seforno shares an enlightening interpretation. When people complain, they are really suffering on two levels. The first obvious one is physical, in our case from thirst. However, there's another perhaps even deeper need that ifֲֲ hasn't been met causes great suffering. The feeling that no-one cares about them or their needs. The people weren't convinced Moshe even cared about them! Initially Moshe deflected them and later turned to Hashem to complain about them. Now if he were to walk off to Chorev, even though he knows the purpose of his journey is to provide for them, they don't know that, and would be left feeling abandoned.ֲֲ
Here comes Hashem with a life lesson to Moshe and to us. Walk before the people and as they see you putting in efforts to provide them with their basic needs, all the complaints will cease.
ֲֲ Why do people complain instead of simply requesting? Based on the Seforno's teaching, it comes from a deep need to feel cared for. So as well as providing for them on a technical level, just let them know you care, this is perhaps an even greater service than whatever specifically they are requesting.
קוד השיעור: 9243