The hopeful and encouraging words of Moshe fell flat.
“I have come to set you free! G-d has made me a messenger to facilitate the Geula!” But They did not listen to Moshe because of shortness of breath, kotzer ruach, and because of strenuous work.
What is this “Kotzer Ruach” syndrome that prevents man from wanting to go free and to resist happiness?
It seems that sometimes we want to help ourselves or be helped, but we are so exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually, we are so deeply enslaved, that we cannot grasp the possibility of a better reality. This was our situation in Egypt, and we could not listen to Moshe.
The Zohar teaches that the ruach or spirit referred to in this verse is the ruach found in the second verse of the Torah “…and the ruach (spirit) of Elokim was hovering above the waters.” We were short on G-d’s ruach. We became so entrenched in Egypt that we became disconnected and unexcited about anything spiritual. We didn’t have the ruach to listen to Moshe or to even think about freedom. The less we are connected to Hashem, the more we are short of breath and spirit. The Torah begins with G-d’s ruach and ends with Hashem telling Moshe to pick a successor who is full of ruach.
I pay careful attention to what gets people excited. Do they have Ruach?
Some people come alive when they talk about their business; some people wake up when they talk about sports; some people only wake up when they talk about others; and yet some people wake up when they talk about Torah.
I recently had the privilege of watching an old rabbi ascend a podium to speak. I asked myself how anybody expected him to have the strength to invigorate the audience. He was hardly awake himself. But as he started to talk Divrei Torah he became thirty years younger right before my eyes. He stood straighter, his voice became more powerful, his mind was sharper, and he was suddenly plugged in! I understood that this man is a Ish Ruach — he gets excited and derives energy from another world.
For the Jewish people to survive we need people with ruach. We need people that are focused more on where they are going then what they are driving. We need to maintain the ability to think big, to think Eretz Yisroel, to think community and not to get bogged down with the small stuff.
The Jews in Egypt were burdened with slavery. They couldn’t have vision; they couldn’t get excited about freedom – they suffered from the kotzer ruach syndrome.
May we all be be filled with the ruach of Hashem.