Parashat Vaera begins with God’s promises assuring Benei Yisrael of redemption even after Moshe’s initial confrontation with Pharaoh resulted in his intensifying their burden of labor. The Torah relates that Moshe conveyed these promises to the people, but they were too physically and emotionally shattered to accept his assurances (6:9).
Sefat Emet (5639) comments that although Benei Yisrael rejected Moshe’s message of hope and promise, this does not mean that his conveying this prophecy was useless. He writes: “The Almighty…commanded [Moshe] to tell this section to Benei Yisrael, even though they would not listen…[because] nevertheless, some slight impact definitely remained with them from these words.” Although the people responded to Moshe’s prophecy with rejection, the message he conveyed did have some impact upon them, however slight. Sefat Emet adds: “Some slight knowledge exists in a person’s heart, and God, who examines the thoughts and heart, understands this thought which the person himself is incapable of sensing.” There are stirrings of the heart, and realizations of the mind, which we cannot perceive, but which indeed occur and have an impact on our growth and development. We do not always see the positive steps forward that we take, or notice our personal growth or heightened understanding. There is so much about ourselves that only God, the “bochein kelayot va-leiv,” who knows everything about our thoughts and feelings, is aware of. And so He sent Moshe to deliver His promises of redemption despite knowing that the people would not accept them – because He knew that this message would have a slight impact, and even a slight impact is significant and worthwhile.
Sefat Emet here teaches that we should not feel discouraged when we sense that our attempts to grow, improve and learn are unsuccessful. Every piece of information we learn, and every sincere thought of introspection and resolve, impacts us in some way. Growth is not always outwardly discernible, and it does not need to be outwardly discernible to be valuable.
Sefat Emet’s comments also convey an important lesson relevant to education. The effects of a parent or educator’s efforts are not always apparent, and very often, they will not be apparent until many years later. Even when it appears that the messages taught and conveyed to children and students are rejected, this does not necessarily mean that they have had no impact. We must do the best we can in educating our children, and improving ourselves, and trust that as long as our efforts are sincere, they are having a positive impact, however slight, and that even a slight impact is precious and valuable.