For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moses because of [their] (impatience of spirit) shortness of breath and because of [their] hard labor" (Ex. 6:9)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi:"but they did not hearken to Moses"
They did not accept consolation, i.e. they despaired completely of ever being redeemed.

...they despaired completely of ever being redeemed.

"because of [their] shortness of breath"
Whoever is under stress, his wind and his breath are short, and he cannot take a deep breath.

Siftei Chachamim: It was not because they were short of breath that the Israelites did not accept consolation from Moses. The shortness of breath reflected their state of mind. And in their troubled state of mind they abandoned hope for redemption.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: mikotzar/shortness is spelled defectively, without the letter Vav, and its numerical value is 430 as if to say, "at the end of 430 years they left Egypt." as it is stated, "And it came to pass at the end of four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the host of G‑d went out from the land of Egypt".

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ohr HaChayim: Perhaps the people did not respond positively to Moses’ assurance because they had not yet received the Torah. Since the Torah broadens a person's mind, the Torah may hint at that by describing the Israelites' minds as "narrow minded, limited."....The people had good reason to be impatient (short of breath) because Moses had come and given them hope that their liberation was close at hand. So they had a new perspective on life. Now when Pharaoh decreed new burdens, their minds could only concentrate on how to cope with the immediate and worse situation. The word "from" in "from their hard labor" is comparative, namely even worse than before Moses came.

Ramban: It was not that they did not believe in G‑d and in His prophet. rather they paid no attention to his words because of impatience of spirit, as a person whose soul is grieved on account of his misery and does not want to live another moment in his suffering even though he knows that he will be relieved later. This "shortness of breath / impatience of spirit" was their fear that Pharaoh would put them to death as their officers said to Moses, and the "cruel bondage" was the pressure, for the taskmasters pressed upon them and hurried them, which gave them no chance to hear anything and consider it.

...they thought that Moses had come to draw on them additional judgments.

Maggid Mesharim: They did not listen to Moses because they saw that they did not have good and proper deeds, and so felt that the spirit/breath--tiferet/Beauty—would not rouse itself sufficiently to help them. They thought that because of their deeds, the spirit/Tiferet was diminished. The word labor refers to malchut for all service to G‑d is done through it. The Children of Israel saw that it was very difficult, that is, it was full of Judgment, and they thought that Moses had come to draw on them additional judgments. Thus they did not pay attention to Moses, for they did not realize that the judgments were in malchut that had come to bring the plagues on Egypt. As Moses said, "behold the Children of Israel did not listen to me.." meaning that if the Children of Israel themselves thought the Judgments had come against them, and it did not dawn on them that they had come to act against Egypt, even more so Pharaoh and the Egyptians would think that the Judgments had come to harm the Israelites, G‑d forbid!, and not to harm the Egyptians. Therefore Pharaoh would not believe Moses.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Va'eira 25:
"And Moses spoke so to the children of Israel, but they hearkened not to Moses for anguish of spirit." What is "anguish of spirit"? Rabbi Yehuda said: they did not rest and they did not gather into themselves breath.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
It all begins (began) with breath: "Then G‑d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

And it all ends with our last breath, for when one "expires" he gives literally gives forth his last breath without an "inspiriation" of breath later.

We had no inhalation in Egypt, the Metzarim/narrow straits that cut off our head from our heart at the place of the Oref/back of the neck, where Pharaoh (same Hebrew letters as Oref) spiritually siphoned off all of the flow and mentalities from the Upper Sefirot to the lower 7, at the place of the Daat. We repair this on the night of Pesach (in another 3 months!), by reading with our mouth (Pesach = Peh + Sach — lit. "the mouth speaks") to fix the Peh Rah (evil mouth of Pharaoh (same letters as Peh Rah), and in so doing gather upon ourselves a new spirit of rebirth for a Holy Day.

In the words of a dear friend, "Every time we breathe in, we are reborn; every time we breathe out, we die." So perhaps the trick with inspiration is to make the breath, the Ruach, also one's spirit (translated also Ruach). That with every breath we take we have the opportunity for a sacred experience. That we are renewed, refreshed, inspired. Shabbat is our day of spiritual rest, but every day concerns either moving toward a new Shabbat or moving away from a past Shabbat. To figure how to expand our breath is the major fixing/tikkun from this passage, how we can leave our inner Egypt with the power of a breath. Worth more reflection.

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