One of the most remarkable aspects of the midrashic tradition is the liberty taken at times by our rabbis to ascribe human predicaments and frustrations to God. An instance of this occurs in Parashat Yitro, where Moses ascends Mt. Sinai to receive God’s initial instructions for preparing the Jewish People to accept the Torah.
“HaShem called from the mountain saying, ‘Speak to the House of Jacob, and tell the Israelites …” God seems to have two distinct groups, not just one, in mind here. Perhaps because “house” is a common rabbinic euphemism for “wife,” and “Israelite” is literally “sons” of Israel, the midrash posits that the first group to be addressed would be the women and the second comprised of the men. Why should the women receive God’s pronouncement prior to the men?
Rabbi Tachlifa of Caesarea suggests that God recalled what had happened at an earlier time in which he had issued a commandment and spoke directly only to a man and left the woman out of the conversation. This misstep ended with a complete upset of God’s plan and Adam and Eve tossed from the Garden of Eden. God was not about to make the same mistake twice, so at Mt. Sinai the women are addressed first.
Long gone are the days in which communication may have been restricted to verbal exchanges or the reading of stone tablets. Today we have phones, email, texting, and more. Yet, the frustration over how to communicate effectively never seems to diminish. Who needs to be in the loop right away? Who is better included later on in the process? Often it’s tricky, but it’s reassuring to know even God didn’t always get it right either.
Rabbi Mitch Levine