Shemot – Moshe

In the beginning of our parsha, Moshe had an argument with God.  God wanted Moshe to go on a mission of redemption, to take the Jews out of the land of Egypt.  Moshe, however, did not wish to take on the mission.  His initial refusal was for two reasons: 1) – his older brother Aharon was more suited for the job, and 2) He knew that he would not be permitted to lead the Jews into the land of Israel. Ultimately, we see that Moshe acquiesced to the task the God placed on his shoulders; he agreed to go to Egypt and talk to Pharoah about freeing the Jews.  However, nowhere do we see how he overcame his two specific objections.

Having made the decision to leave for Egypt, Moshe proceeded to load his wife, two sons and their belongings on “the donkey” mentioned in the verse (Ex 4:20).  Rashi explains that the Torah says “the donkey” because this was the special donkey that Abraham had saddled and taken with his son Isaac to the akeida (“binding” and near sacrifice).  Rashi also mentions that this is the donkey that will be used by the meshiach when he arrives in the future redemption. If Rashi wanted to merely point out what was special about this donkey (such that the Torah calls it “the donkey,” rather than just “a donkey”), he need not have mentioned that future episode of the meshiach’ arrival.  He need only have mentioned that this was the special donkey that was used by Abraham.

But actually, what Rashi wants to do here is to answer the questions asked above.  He wants to explain why Moshe agreed to take on the task despite his reservations.  The first reservation – that his brother Aharon was more suited for the job – was answered by the hint from Abraham, who saddled his own donkey and set off to the akeida with both alacrity and happiness.  This was a hint that ultimately, Moshe would do the same thing – he would agree to the mission even though he had reservations.  Moshe’s second reservation, that he would not be the one to lead the Jews into the promised Land, was resolved by Rashi’s mention of the meshiach.  That the meshiach would ultimately arrive and lead ALL the Jews into Israel is tantamount to saying that the redemption was all one event.   The redemption from Egypt was the first stage, and when meshiach arrives on a donkey and redeems the Jews from exile, this is the culmination of the process.  Moshe came to understand that “he is the first redeemer and he is the final redeemer” – this is what Rashi conveys with his mention not only of Abraham and the akeida but also of the meshiach.

Rashi’s explanation covers three epochs – the generation of Abraham, that of Moshe, and that of Meshiach. Together, they encompass three stages in the spiritual development of the world.  During the generation of Abraham, the physical world opposed Godly revelation. In his generation, there was little that Abraham could do to reveal Godliness.  This is indicated in the language of the Torah –  Abraham “saddled the donkey” – in which the word for donkey in Hebrew (chamor) also means “physical.”  This donkey represented the entire concept of the physical world.  In order to utilize it for Godly means, it was necessary to “saddle” it.  Even then, though, all Abraham could do was to place his belongings upon it, meaning that there was little or no personal relationship between the physical and spiritual realms.

Later, we find that Moshe placed his wife and children on the donkey (on the physical realm).  The language of the Torah is hirkiv, or “rode” them upon the donkey.  This was still before the Torah was given, yet it indicates what was to come – by fulfilling the mitzvoth of the Torah, man will tame and “ride” the physical world.  Still, this was not the ultimate because while the physical world no longer actively oppose Godly revelation, nevertheless it does not reveal spirituality of its own will – it has to be “ridden,” or coerced into revealing Godliness from without.

The ultimate revelation of Godliness will occur in the future, when the meshiach will arrive as a “poor man riding on a donkey.”  More than “saddling the donkey” and merely placing his belongings, and also more than placing his wife and children to “ride the donkey,” meshiach will place himself upon the donkey and master it.  This symbolizes the era when the physical world will not only “allow” spiritual revelation (which began during the generation of Moshe Rabeinu and matan Torah), but will actually encourage and facilitate the revelation of Godliness in the world.

For more details and explanation, go to

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 31, Ppp 15-22

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