This week we read Parshas Vaayra. In the parsha, we read of the mission that Hashem sent Moses on - to tell the Jewish people that He was going to take them out of Egypt. The Torah tells us that when Moses spoke to the Jewish people, they didn’t listen to him, out of “shortness of breath and hard work” (Exodus 6:9). The question is raised, why are the causes of the Jewish people not listening to Moses split into two? Wasn’t the shortness of breath in itself caused by the hard work? If so, there really is only one root cause – the hard work. Why does the Torah add the reason of shortness of breath as a cause of the Jews not listening to Moses?
The Vilna Gaon explains that there really were two causes that affected the ability of the Jewish people to listen to Moses. The first was the basic hard work that the Jewish people had to do. This was caused by the building that the Jewish people had to do with bricks. The back breaking labor did not allow them to really focus on the words or message of Moses. The second factor was the “shortness of breath” This was caused by the searching for straw that the Jews had to do. Although it itself wasn’t hard work, it was constant and never-ending. This caused a “shortness of breath”, that affected the ability of the Jews to listen to Moses.
In the same way, we are all affected by these two factors in our own life when we must own up and listen to Hashem. When we have a situation that we must respond to, we often can’t respond properly because we feel too weighed down by all the various pressures that surround us. Those are our “heavy stones” around us. There is another factor that we must combat. Very often we feel overwhelmed by the constant challenges or pressures we face; not because they are particularly hard, but because they are constant. We must realize that, and try to focus on our priorities, not allowing the pressures of everyday life to overwhelm us and prevent us from serving Hashem with all our strength.