“Therefore say to the Israelites: I will remove you from the forced labor of Egypt and free you from slavery. I will liberate you with a demonstration of My power. . . I will take you to myself as a nation, and I will be to you as a God. . . I will bring you to the land. . . that I would give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Shmot 6:6-8).
This four- fold promise outlines what lies in store for the Jewish people. With miracles and signs God will redeem them from slavery in Egypt and make them into his nation, and lead them into the land of Israel. This promise was seen by the rabbis as so important that four was selected as the number of cups of wine to be drunk at the Passover seder to parallel the four aspects of redemption contained in these verses.
How did the Jewish people react to the news of their coming redemption?
One might expect that they would rejoice. Even if they did not begin to rejoice, lest the news be “too good to be true,” one would think they would at least be encouraged by the possibility that their freedom was near. But in verse 9, we read how Moses tells the Israelites of God´s promise, and the Torah tells us regarding the people, “They did not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and hard work.” If they only had listened to Moses´ message and even rejected it, because they did not think Moses´ promise was authentic, they had heard promises from others in the past that had not come true, or some similar reason, it would have been possible for Moses to continue to talk to the people and convince them to believe in God´s prophesy. But the people did not even listen! They were too busy with the mundane tasks the Egyptians had placed upon them to find time for Moses.
The great prophesy of redemption, which we recall each year with four cups of wine at our seders, was never even heard.
The message of the Torah, while no longer conveyed directly by prophets, is still being given to us today. How do we respond? Do we struggle, argue, reason, and try to understand? If we engage Torah with serious inquiry and thought our questions will meet with replies. But what if we, just like the ancient Israelites, do not even hear the words of Moses because of the other tasks we are busy with in our own lives. The Torah cannot respond to indifference. We have to set aside time and make the effort to study the Torah, because for the words of the Torah to pass us by unheard is the greatest tragedy of all.