קֹּ֣צֶר kotzer = shortness. impatience
ר֔וּחַ ruach = breath, spirit.
kotzer ruach (according to traditional commentators): anguished, distressed, afraid, narrow minded, short of breath, constricted, closed off, worn out, reach limit of endurance
How do you understand kotzer ruach? For the Israelites in the Exodus story? For the moments when you are unable to listen?
Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture.
To hear is to open oneself up to vulnerability, change, contingency.
“The Language of the Unheard” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, "The Other America,' April 1967
What have you been able to hear in the last year that you weren’t able to previously?
What voices are you failing to hear (our own, others', the earth's)? What prevents us from hearing, or makes it hard to do so? What helps us to listen better?
What might change if we were able to listen/ hear more? What opportunities are missed when we fail to do so?
How does oppression, overwhelm, or trauma impact our ability to listen? To be creative and imagine?
Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, in The Particulars of Rapture. “To hear is to open oneself up to vulnerability, change, contingency.” Pharoah the hard-hearted cannot consider even the idea of change, so he refuses to hear out Moses. Pharoah afflicts his Israelite slaves with the same deafness, by making their lives so hard that they cannot stop and listen to any revolutionary ideas. Thus Egypt, which in Hebrew is called Mitzrayim, “Narrow Places”, is the place of constriction for both master and slave. It is the place where people are stunted, cut short—“kotzer”—from the freedom of thought that make us human.- Melissa Carpenter, writer, mtorah.com
R. Simcha Bunem of Przysucha (1765–1827)
“Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am YHVH. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians ... (Ex. 6:6)
“The labors (סבלות/sivlot) of the Egyptians” – even though their work was harsh and brutal, the Israelites nevertheless became accustomed to suffering, and bore the yoke and the travail with patience (סבלנות/savlanut), seeing their situation as natural. The blessed Holy One said: since they no longer fall ill nor sense the bitterness of their fate, they are in great danger, and the redemption cannot wait any longer – “therefore speak to the Israelite people … that I will take them out from their tolerance of and patience with the labors of the Egyptians.”
What did you tolerate in the past that you no longer have patience for? What do you tolerate now that you wish that you didn't or think that you shouldn't?
Rabbi Menachem Mendle of Kotzk (1787-1859)
The first step in liberation is resistance to slavery. Redemption is inconceivable so long as one does not first loathe exile. Moses announced that the blessed Holy One would take out from their very innards patience (סבלות /sivlot = סבלנות /savlanut) with the Egyptian bondage and its defilements, so that they would not be able to tolerate it any longer. This is the foundation from which the redemption grew.