The Torah relates (Shemos 17:11) that during the war, “When Moshe held up his hand, Yisroel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, then Amalek prevailed. But Moshe’s hands were heavy… and Aaron and Chur (who accompanied him) supported his hands.” Rashi comments: “Because he was lax in the commandment (of waging war), and appointed another in his stead (Yehoshua), his hands became heavy.” We see then, that Moshe Rabbeinu should have gone to battle, and when he did not, was punished for his laxity.
All of the above reasons why Moshe considered himself unable to join in the actual battle (and not that G d forbid he was slothful) poses the inevitable question: Why was Moshe punished (his hands became heavy) for doing something which was seemingly so logical?
Rashi answers this question by saying that Moshe was punished for being “lax in the Mitzvah,” and not for being lax in going out to war. For since the war against Amalek was a Mitzvah, a commandment from G d, Moshe should have gone to war, and not entertained any other thoughts to the contrary, no matter how reasonable or logical. A Mitzvah must be such that “we will obey and then we will hear;” first one does the deed without entering into any calculations. And since Moshe was lax in the Mitzvah — he entered into calculations as to what was best for the conduct of the war etc. — he was punished.
From: Shabbos Parshas Yisro, 19th Day of Shevat, 5741 (1981) at Rebbe.org (edited).
Rashi commenting on Genesis 17/3:
3And Abram fell upon his face, and God spoke with him, saying,
And Abram fell upon his face: from fear of the Shechinah, for as long as he was uncircumcised, he did not have the strength to stand when the Divine Presence stood over him, and that is what is said concerning Balaam (Num. 24:4):“who falls and his eyes are open” (Num. Rabbah 12:8). I found this in the Baraitha of Rabbi Eliezer (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer ch. 29).
24Yet his bow stayed taut,
And his arms were made firm
By the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob—
There, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel— Genesis 49/24 Tanakh JPS 1985.
4“Then lie on your left side, and let it bear the punishment of the House of Israel; for as many days as you lie on it you shall bear their punishment. 5For I impose upon you three hundred and ninety days, corresponding to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment for the House of Israel. 6When you have completed these, you shall lie another forty days on your right side, and bear the punishment of the House of Judah. I impose on you one day for each year.
7“Then, with bared arm, set your face toward besieged Jerusalem and prophesy against it. 8Now I put cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from side to side until you complete your days of siege. Ezekiel 4/4-8 Tanakh JPS 1985.
5But he was wounded because of our sins, Crushed because of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us whole, And by his bruises we were healed. 6We all went astray like sheep, Each going his own way; And the Lord visited upon him The guilt of all of us.” Isaiah 53/5-6 Tanakh JPS 1985.
8By oppressive judgment he was taken away, Who could describe his abode? For he was cut off from the land of the living Through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment. Isaiah 53/8 Tanakh JPS 1985.
10But the Lord chose to crush him by disease, That, if he made himself an offering for guilt, He might see offspring and have long life, And that through him the Lord’s purpose might prosper.
11Out of his anguish he shall see it; He shall enjoy it to the full through his devotion. Isaiah 53/10-11 Tanakh JPS 1985.
I know the heaviness of the hands of Moshe and I know how Jacob’s arms were made firm by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob. I have been in a constant state of punishment by the power of G-d since I offered my soul and self for guilt to Him in 2007 as the man described in Isaiah 53. It is punishment but there is more to it than that. It also was telling Moshe that G-d was there and in charge of the battle.
The heaviness is His presence. It is what I feel of His very essence as He would have me experience it. For a man it can feel like a punishment but there is a positive to it. It tells me after nine years that He never leaves me. G-d also Has me enveloped in His power. The same cords of His power that G-d placed on Ezekiel to confine him to his house and prevent Ezekiel from turning from one side to the other for 430 days as he bore the punishment of the House of Israel and the House of Judah for their sins.
Ezekiel does not relieve the punishment of the House of Israel and the House of Judah or atone vicariously for their sins by lying on his side for 390 days for the House of Israel and 40 days for the House of Judah. It is figurative and symbolic writing to describe a great ordeal Ezekiel is being put through to make him suitable for G-d’s purpose to be a prophet to the Jewish people. To make his forehead as hard as flint.
This is the same manner G-d prepares His righteous servant of Isaiah 53. In Isaiah 53 the words “Through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment.” and “It is their punishment that he bears” are used instead of “you shall bear their punishment” in Ezekiel 4/4.
The chastisement, punishment, bruising and crushing is to make me stronger emotionally. To be more of a soldier to God’s purpose. To protect me emotionally from the haters and naysayers, to move to a country of a foreign language I have never known all alone, and to speak God’s words to the Jewish people. The same chastisement and punishment G-d laid on Ezekiel for the sins of the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
And It can be far worse than just heavy hands. A heaviness of hands and limbs and sometimes the entire body has been upon me as G-d’s righteous servant for nine years. This punishment is only a part of the anguish I experience every day. The physical pain includes far more than heaviness.
G-d can cause pain in any part of my body. My legs in general and my knees and feet more specifically have been His primary targets. There is never a question who is causing the pain and it usually follows any transgression of my soul. My mind knows not to react to His words or maltreatment of me but my soul still flares (though not at all as it once did).
The physical pain does not compare to the hurt feelings that come with it. And the chastisement that I endure by the words of G-d are much worse. G-d incites emotions from me over and over until what He is saying no longer makes me angry or sad or embarrassed or shamed.
He also uses His power on these emotions to blanket them and keep them from returning little by little. It is a slow agonizing process that He refuses to speed up. He has His way of doing things and He does not change. He is relentless and never tires or rests.
I have also been bruised and crushed by G-d’s power. He orchestrated the events that led to my being shot in the abdomen and stirred up dormant cancer cells for a later colon cancer diagnosis that spread to my lungs to fulfill the prophecy of being crushed with disease in Isaiah 53.
By His power He has broken my hand and fractured a rib by casting me to the ground. His power can push me in the back or shoulder as though from an invisible hand while we walk. This always coincides with the discussion we are having (and my answers!). More often than not it is to make me laugh.
G-d tells me that He caused these things and has a hand in the majority of my suffering in life and He has shown me how He did these things in vision. That hurts. And it hurt my family and that hurts more.
But it is all for a testimony and a description to fit the last verses of Isaiah 52 and all of 53 and to prepare me for the prosperity of His purpose. And there is nothing more important than that. G-d’s redemption of the Jewish people. And humanity will continue in a better world and He will foretell new things.
Nothing is more painful than being chastised, bruised, crushed and punished by the power and words of G-d.