Parshat Vara: dealing with the difficulty that accompanies the repair process

Parshat Vara: dealing with the difficulty that accompanies the repair process

The year 1973 is known to every Israeli as the year in which the Yom Kippur War broke out, which left a scar on the proud Israeliness of the aftermath of the Six Day War, a scar that has not completely healed to this day. However, in the wider world, and not unrelated to the Mediterranean War, this year will be remembered economically as the year in which the severe inflation outbreak that lasted for many years began. The inflation of the 1970s is related to other factors (price controls by President Nixon, the abolition of the gold standard by the central bank, etc.) but mainly to the restriction of oil exports by the Ofek cartel.

After the initial burst, a wage-inflation spiral ensued. The trade unions in the United States enjoyed great power at that time, and demanded and received wage increases. These in turn fueled inflation which resulted in additional wage demands and God forbid. In addition, due to high energy prices the economy sank into deflation, and it seemed that nothing could break the discouraging vicious circle. The recession did end at the end of the first quarter of 1975, which means the economy started growing again, but at a low rate until the middle of Reagan’s term in the 80s, and the high inflation continued for many years after 1975, and was also accompanied by high unemployment.

Against the backdrop of the discouraging economic conditions, in July 1979, Paul Volcker was appointed governor of the American Bank. His main task was to lower the unbearable inflation rates and he approached the task with great vigor. In March 1980 the inflation rate in the United States was 14.3%. By 1983 and his appointment to another term by Reagan, inflation had dropped below 3%.

How did the governor perform the miracle? Hardly, decisively, one could almost say – brutally. The interest rate, the one that affects household consumption, the ability to take out a mortgage, buy a car, raise capital, jumped from 11.2% when he took office to 20% in June 81. The prime rate reached 21.5%. The high interest rate led, once again, to a three-year recession and the unemployment rate soared to over 10%. Millions of Americans lost their headquarters, their homes, and their dignity.

The difficult measures of the governor did not pass without silence and agreement. The Fed’s Board of Governors faced sharp attacks from politicians, farmers who lost their headquarters drove their tractors to Washington DC. si. and blocked the entrance to the Fed building and the demonstrations flooded the United States in an unprecedented way.

However, in 1982, when inflation cooled down, the Governor’s monetary policy eased. Growth returned the following year along with falling unemployment rates. When Volcker finished his second term in August 1987, the American economy was in a completely different place (then Black Monday came, but that’s another story…)

Was Volcker’s tough policy justified? It is difficult to answer, and to this day there are debates on the subject. What is indisputable is that his measures finally curbed inflation, and in a relatively quick manner, and in the end also led to growth that lasted more or less for four decades with minor breaks in between, and economic well-being that reached all parts of the economy. It is hard to know where the American (and global) economy would have ended up if Volcker had not rescued it from the inflation trap with his aggressive policies. Could he have been a little more moderate? Did he see before his eyes the suffering of the common people? Have all the right steps been taken to ease the harsh policy? It’s hard to know, but it will be seen from the distance of time, that the steps he took eventually led the American economy to a better place.

From the case of Volcker and the inflation of the 1970s, we can learn that sometimes a period of belt-tightening and suffering can cure deep economic diseases and bring about a renewed boom afterwards. The difficulty is in dealing with the difficult interim period, a difficulty that Moshe Rabbino also encountered in our parshatina and last week’s parsha, although not necessarily in the economic aspect.

Parashat Vara, which is called Shabbat, begins with a rebuke speech by the Holy One Baruch to Moses. There are not many places in the Torah where criticism is leveled at the great leaders of the people of Israel, and in our parasha the criticism is not explicit either, but most commentators understand the comparison made by the Holy One, blessed be He, the son of Moses, to the fathers of the nation – Abraham Yitzchak and Jacob:

“And God spoke to Moses and said to him, I am the Lord. And I looked at Abraham, at Isaac, and at Jacob in God’s name, and in the name of the Lord I was not known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of their residence in which they lived.”

Rashi explains: “Speak to him of judgment (difficult words) for making it difficult to speak and say why you harmed this people… You promised (the ancestors) many promises… I made and made a covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan… After all, I vowed to them, And I did not fulfill it.” In other words, in contrast to the fathers who heard promises that were not fulfilled, such as the promise of inheriting the land, and yet continued to believe and trust in God, Moshe complains.

Later, Rashi quotes the midrash: “When Abraham asked to bury Sarah, he did not find a plot of land until he bought it with a lot of blood, and likewise in Isaac they complained about the wells he dug, and also in Jacob… and they did not think about my measurements, and you said why did you harm her?” And in the previous parasha he explained Rashi of God’s words to Moses: “Reflect upon my measure, not like Abraham when I said to him that in Isaac he will call you a seed, and then I told him to raise him up to the priest and he did not ponder over my measure.” In other words, God’s rebuke is for the fact that Moses “thought about his measures”, that is, he doubted God’s ways of leading the world.

what’s the matter? Where did Moshe reflect on the measurements of the Holy One, blessed be He, and where did he say “Why did you harm her”?

In the previous parasha, Parashat Shemot, Moshe was sent to Pharaoh with the command request “Send my people.” Pharaoh as expected refuses. Moses knew in advance that Pharaoh would refuse, partly because he had no reason to agree even before the first blow, and also because God told him in advance that this would be the case: “And I knew that the king of Egypt would not let you go, not with a strong hand.” So Pharaoh’s reaction was completely predictable. However, besides refusing the very request, Pharaoh gets angry and adds a new decree (about which we wrote here last week) and commands his servants: “You shall not gather straw for the people to whiten the bricks like the day before yesterday, they will go and make straw for them, and the shape of the bricks that they make the day before yesterday you shall put on them and not subtract from him”.

This decree had disastrous consequences for the suffering people of slaves: “And the people dispersed throughout the land of Egypt to the straw for the hay. And those who came fast said, “Your deeds are all done day by day when the hay is there. And they beat the sons of Israel.” In distress, the beaten policemen turned to Pharaoh “and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you do this to your servants… and behold, your servants are beaten and you have sinned with your people.” The pharaoh does not listen to the cries of the policemen and they leave the palace frustrated. On the way out they meet Moshe and Aaron who are coming again on a mission to Pharaoh. They place the blame on them for the difficult situation, and do not spare them the tribe of their words: “May God watch over you and judge that you have put our scent in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

The harsh words hurt Moshe’s soft stomach. The optimism that accompanied the first steps towards redemption is replaced by despair. He decides at that moment not to continue with the task assigned to him, he turns on his heels and comes to God with complaints: “And Moses sat before God and said: God, why did you harm this people, why did you send my son-in-law, and since then I have come to Pharaoh to speak on your bad name to this people and the shadow You did not save your people.” The people also stop hearing, after they joyfully received the good news of salvation: “And they did not listen to Moses because of impatience and hard work”.

This is the lack of faith in G-d, about which Rashi spoke in our parasha, and about which G-d rebukes Moshe. And it is truly strange that Moshe seemingly despairs and throws up his hands. Did G-d not tell him that this would be the case? Was it not expected that this would be Pharaoh’s reaction? This is how Rabbi Avraham puts it Ibn Ezra answered the question: “After God informed Moses and said to him and I knew that the king of Egypt would let you go…then why would Moses be angry?”

The various commentators discussed this and gave different reasons for the despair that apparently gripped Moses. The stone Ezra himself explains that Moses thought that the redemption would be conducted in a positive direction of improvement from the beginning: “And the answer: Moses thought that from his word to Pharaoh he would lighten them for a lifetime (their burden), and here he made the work heavier for them.”

That is, I expected, says Moshe, that as soon as I took the first step, there would be an improvement. I did not expect that taking a right step in the positive direction would result in the worsening of the existing situation. This is a natural tendency. People expect the positive result of right actions to be felt immediately. And this is what God proves to Moses: the ancestors understood that redemption, that is, correcting and healing an existing situation, is a long process, possibly even several years or even several generations. Improvement is not a uniformly rising graph, but includes ups and downs, crises and progress. Therefore, if you believe and know for sure that this is the right step, the fact that the results are delayed in coming should not let you down.

Others, including the Hor Haim and the Naziv of Volzin in his book Ha’emek Devar, explain Moshe’s complaint differently. According to them, Moshe realized that the time of redemption had not yet come, and the mission was too early. Moshe asked, then, why he was sent to Pharaoh to “annoy” him before the time and turn the situation around To make it even more difficult. It is better to wait for the right moment so that the suffering and enslavement do not increase, and to send me at the right time, says Moses to God. However, the mistake is that the crisis is also part of the redemption. The step could not be postponed, since the redemption necessarily includes difficulties on its way, falls and crises. Postponing the step would have caused the suffering to be unnecessarily prolonged, and may even have made it worse. In the end, the more severe torment would have come one way or another.

These are things that the crowd has a hard time accepting “due to impatience and hard work”. There may be measures that will hurt in the short term and make life more difficult, but in the long term will bring improvement, but the crowd does not see this because it is focused on the here and now, and now this step makes the situation more difficult. But really, it is necessary to know how to bear the burden and suffer during the healing period in order to later enjoy the period of prosperity.

Even when severe economic decrees are passed, the daily burden, the burdensome payments, the difficulty of achieving the economic goals and the need to reduce and cut expenses causes impatience and resentment towards the leaders. It is possible, though, that this difficulty should be taken into account in the decision-making process, and think about how to make it easier if possible. However, often postponing difficult and necessary steps, if they are indeed necessary for improvement, will not ease the sorrow that will follow, perhaps even make it worse. There is no point in claiming “the time of redemption has not yet come, why is it that I am sent” because redemption will begin when it is sent, when the step is taken, even if at first it will not be seen as redemption.

Leaders often do not have the strength to withstand the shouts and complaints of the crowd, and they do not have the necessary courage to take the necessary steps and carry out reforms in order to correct the system. It is convenient for them to stay in the comfort zone and portray themselves as benefactors of the people or receive a sympathetic article in one or another newspaper. Real leaders are the ones who stand up to the burst of criticism and take the necessary steps to bring about a better future.


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