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Stating the Obvious

Friday, 17 January, 2014 - 10:00 am

An elderly widow got remarried. Her new groom was also a senior citizen and a widower.  The two of them, aside from liking each other a great deal, were united in making the best of their situations.

One day the wife complained to her daughter that her new husband does not compliment her when the table is set and the floor is mopped. He seems to take everything for granted.

“Maybe he doesn’t notice,” her daughter suggested. At that stage in life, she figured, it’s certainly possible.

Sure enough, the new bride began telling her groom that she had mopped the floor. As soon as he heard – and now noticed – he began heaping praises upon her.  Soon enough, he was doing it on his own.

***

In preparation to receive the Torah G-d relayed several instructions to the Jewish people. In this week’s parsha Yitro, the Torah records that, “All the people replied in unison and said, "All that G-d has spoken we shall do!" and Moses took the words of the people back to G-d.”

The Midrash is perplexed by Moshe’s behavior. It’s one thing for Moshe to convey G-d’s message to the Jewish people. After all, the Jews have no other way of knowing G-d’s command. But why does Moshe need to report the people’s reply to G-d? If we believe in an omnipresent G-d, isn’t it stating the obvious?

Rather, the Midrash argues, Moshe was not sending a message to G-d. G-d knew.

Moshe was imparting a lesson to his own people. He was conveying the message of etiquette.  He did not say, ‘Since He Who sent me knows, I do not have to reply.’

I would suggest – based on this teaching of our Sages – that it was not only protocol for Moshe to report to the Almighty. It was also meaningful for G-d. Hashem Himself appreciated Moshe’s report. True, G-d was aware. He even knew before Moshe knew. And before the people themselves knew.  But hearing it gave G-d nachas. When G-d hears good tidings and pledges from His people, He is happy.

***

We all invariably find ourselves in Moshe’s shoes. Perhaps it’s telling our loved ones how remarkable they’ve been. Or simply how remarkable they are. It could be a word of acknowledgement to an employee. A thank-you to a neighbor. Or a message to the mail carrier.

Stating the obvious may seem insignificant. But if it matters to G-d, it sure matters to all of us.

And if G-d deemed it appropriate to include this as a prequel to establishing His unique bond with the Jewish people (through the Giving of the Torah), it very well may be a critical ingredient for all meaningful relationships.

Before seeking novel memoranda to share with others, we can deepen our relationships simply by stating the obvious.

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