V'Chein L'Yemos HaMoshiach
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him, "I appeared to Avraham to
Yitzchak, and to Ya'akov as E"l Shadd"ai, and, My Name Y-H-V-H I did
not make known to them" (Shemos 6:2)
This, of course, is G-d's response to Moshe Rabbeinu's complaint
about the increased slavery of the Jewish people in last week's
parshah. Moshe thought he had made the situation worse by requesting
the release of his people -- which he did -- and lost faith in the
forthcoming redemption. G-d told him that his Forefathers, who never
had a chance to witness what he was witnessing -- the redeeming,
promise-fulfilling power of Y-H-V-H -- never doubted the future
redemption for a moment.
"Furthermore, I established My covenant with THEM, to give THEM
the land of Canaan, the land of THEIR sojournings, where THEY lived.
Furthermore again, I have heard the crying out of the Children of
Israel, as a result of Egyptian oppression, and, I have remembered My
covenant. THEREFORE, tell the Children of Israel, I am Y-H-V-H who
will take them out from under the Egyptian burden(4-6)
What was G-d's point to Moshe? It was a simple point. It was a VERY
simple point. But, it is THE point for ALL of Jewish history, one
that seems to be lost on a large part of our generation today, and,
it goes something like this:
"I see," says G-d. "You wonder about My method of redemption, do you
Moshe? You wonder because you see a broken people working
continuously under the rulership of an evil king who does not fear
G-d, and, you see G-d doing little to stop him. In other words,
Moshe, you have questions. But do you know Moshe, that all of your
questions are the result of a limited perspective because you have
failed to see the larger picture one that reaches all the way back
in time to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov? Moshe, understand that
this redemption from Egyptian slavery, foretold to Avraham 429 years
ago, is not about redeeming a broken Jewish people. No, it is about
redeeming the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov! It is
about the fulfillment of promises made long ago by Me to great men
who walked with me, in spite of all their hardships, in spite of all
the mysteries of the way I dealt with them. And, furthermore, Moshe,
Geulas-Mitzrayim is not just about the fulfillment of promises made
to a single people, but rather, it is about the fulfillment of ALL OF
HISTORY, from its beginning until its end, for, I have made the
continuation of creation contingent upon Jewish acceptance of Torah
at Mt. Sinai, in the upcoming year, 2448 from creation (Shabbos 88a)!
A lesson Moshe, for you and for ALL generations to come: think in
terms of the past and the future, and, you will better be able to
understand and bear the present."
Amar Rava: V'chein L'Yemos HaMoshiach -- Rava said: It will be the
same for the Days of Moshiach. (Sanhedrin 111a)
Rava is actually talking about how many people will survive the Final
Redemption, using the redemption from Egypt as his example. However,
in doing so, he has set up a parallel between that redemption, and,
the one coming up, b"H, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
For example, not too long ago, journalist Jonathan Rosenblum wrote
A nation that has no past has no future.
The Arabs have no trouble comprehending the relationship between the
Jews' declining connections to their roots and the flowering of their
own national aspirations. Palestinian national fervor has been fueled
by the loss of our own national identity.
Sallah Tamari, a Palestinian parliamentarian, related to Israeli
journalist Aharon Barnea, a dramatic transformation in his thinking
that took place when he was an Israeli security prisoner.
While in jail, he noticed his Jewish warder eating pita during
Pesach. When he asked him how he could do such a thing, the Jewish
guard replied, "I feel no obligation to events that took place over
3,000 years ago."
Until then, Tamari had concluded that Israel was too powerful and that the
Palestinians would never realize any of their territorial dreams. But
that night he could not sleep. All night he thought to himself, "A
nation whose members have no connection to their past, and are
capable of so openly transgressing their most important laws -- that
nation has cut off all its roots to the Land."
From then on, he determined "to fight for everything -- not a
percentage, not such crumbs as the Israelis might throw us -- but for
everything. Because opposing us is a nation that has no connection to
End of article, but, not the end of the story. This is not about
making "compromises for peace," as we are being told by people who
live only in and for the present. This is about making compromises
for history, for the master plan of creation, for the sake of the
fulfillment of ancient and eternal promises. And, if any compromises
need to be made by the Jewish people, it is with respect to our
we-know-better-than-G-d attitude, and our fear of human forces that
really don't matter that much, in the end.
We need to stop sacrificing the past and future of the Jewish people
on the altar of the present, and know and believe that what we are
undergoing is much bigger than we make it out to be, and work with
G-d, and not against Him.
G-d hardened the heart of Paroah and he did not listen to him, just
as G-d had told Moshe. (Shemos 9:12)
What does it mean to have a "hard heart"? Usually, it means to be a
cold person, someone who is unable to feel for other people in
situations of need. A person with a hard heart is someone who is
unable to show mercy at a time when most people would. If so, does
this mean that, had G-d not hardened the heat of Paroah, he would
have shown mercy to the Jewish people?
Unlikely. Enemies usually relish the downfall of the other side, and
feel that whatever happened to their foe was justified. G-d didn't
have to harden Paroah's heart to make sure he would not feel mercy
for the Jewish people who were still enslaved. Rather, G-d hardened
Paroah's heart to make sure that he wouldn't have mercy on HIMSELF
and his OWN people.
And, how did He do it? Physically, Paroah's heart stayed the same, as
did the blood pumping through it. He did it by getting Paroah's goat,
hitting him where he lived, by agitating his pride and making sure
that Paroah perceived a challenge, so that he would sacrifice all to
win, and, in the end lose, and quite badly at that.
This is one of the reasons why Paroah's name is "Paroah," spelled:
peh-raish-ayin-heh. These letters, when re-arranged, spell the word
"arufah" (ayin-raish-peh-heh), which refers to the back of the neck
-- the symbol of stubbornness. Hence, one who is stubborn is called,
"kasheh oref" -- stiff-necked, metaphorically-speaking.
The Jew who stubbornly refuses to redeem his firstborn donkey and
give a sheep to the kohen in its place, as the Torah prescribes, must
break the back of the neck of that donkey. And, the calf that is
killed when a murdered person is found, but whose murderer brazenly
ran from the scene, has its neck broken from the back.
Stubbornness implies a person's unwillingness to abandon his opinion
in spite of the fact that reality demands it. A stubborn person
insists that he is right, in spite of the fact that he is clearly
wrong, and, more than likely, knows it too on some level. And,
stubborn people become dangerous when enough of them get together and
impose their incorrect perspective on those around them, or, even one
obtains high position of power.
But, the worst part of it is, that, stubborn people have no
free-will, at least with respect to the decision about which they are
stubborn. For, free-will requires a clear perspective of what is
morally correct, and, what is morally incorrect, and, enough
objectivity to realize there is a choice between the two, and, the
potential to choose either. Stubborn people, for whatever reason, can
only "feel" the importance of their own opinion, are blind to the
validity of the counter-opinion, and, therefore, lack free-will.
What we learn from Paroah is the way G-d deals with stubborn people,
which, is the same way He deals with ALL sinners:
measure-for-measure. In other words, He lets the person's own
stubbornness be the source of his own downfall. He does this by
creating scenarios for the person that instigate his stubbornness,
and then He steps back while the person's own pride walks them
further down their path of falsehood, smack into the wall of reality,
It is called a "wall of reality," because, that is precisely what it
is. It is the ideological and moral line in the sand, drawn by a
Divinely-designed and immutable purpose of creation. Evil can prosper
(also for the sake of free-will), but it can never win, not in the
long run. Just like most stubborn people, if they don't jump their
ship of stubbornness early enough, meet with a tragic end, as a
result of their own pride and unwillingness to bend for truth.
Defined in these terms, can we afford to take our attitudes toward
Torah and mitzvos lightly, if we don't hold them in high esteem?
G-d did what Moshe had said, and He removed the wild animals from
Paroah, his servants, and his people -- not one remained. (Shemos
Rashi, sensing something extra in this verse, explains the emphasis
on the removal of all the wild animals:
REMOVED THE WILD ANIMALS: Because, if they had merely died, they
would have benefited from their skins. (Rashi)
Interesting people, these Egyptians. They certainly know how to make
the best out of a no-win situation, kind of like the French nobility
during the revolution, who, sensing the end of their lives, decided
to "eat, drink, and be merry."
Though frogs can be cute playthings sometimes (if you like that kind
of thing), they must be downright unbearable in the billions and into
everything you own (and eat). Yet, what did the Egyptians do once
Moshe ordered the end of the plague. Says the Midrash: they made a
massive barbecue! Here G-d was destroying the land and taking the
Egyptians to task for oppressing the Jewish people, and the Egyptians
went ahead and made a holiday out of it!
That was the second plague. Now, a few months and plagues later,
Egypt has taken quite a beating. The Plague of Wild Animals must have
horrified the people and left them trembling. The average person,
upon realizing the plague was over, probably would want to destroy
every last reminder of the plague that was, no?
Not the Egyptians. Upon completion of the plague, they would have
been out in the streets looking to make a killing off all those
animals skins, once again looking to find reward in G-d's punishment.
This time G-d would have none of it, and, all that remained from the
animals was the horrifying memory and the warning of what was to
happen to Egypt in the end.
So, we read this and say, "Hah! Silly people! They go ahead and make
a barbecue out of all those disgusting frogs. And, then they think
only about the potential financial gains from the wild animals that
ravaged their cities. How mercenary can you get?"
Well, we might be able to answer that question ourselves. G-d's
warnings come in many forms, but, come they do. And, in spite of the
fact that messages about doing teshuvah are being hurled at us left,
right, and center, still, we're out their making "barbecues," eating,
drinking, and making merry when we ought to be serious about our
lives and the future of the Jewish people.
When G-d turns up the heat on Jewish history, you don't make holidays
out of it. You don't look impending danger in the face and say,
"Well, today things seem quite peaceful, so why worry?"
Just think about how much Tehillim was said during the Persian Gulf
War, and how many miracles occurred, probably as a result. And, as if
true to the Divine script, the events coincided with parshios from
the Torah, and, Suddam Hussein was nice enough to end the war on
Purim! So, what did we do? We ate and drank and made a celebration,
and let life go back to where it was before this intrusion began until,
that is, the next one took its place.
What would have happened if, instead of closing our sifrei Tehillim,
we kept them open and kept up the Tehillim? What would have happened
if, instead of being cold to one another once again, we kept up the
unity that the war brought out in all of us? Why did we assume the
work was over, when, clearly, it had only just begun!
The start of the war was to end old ways, and, the end of the war was
to begin new ways. Instead, we celebrated the chance to return back
to the quiet of before, which had never been G-d's intention. It is
the "loud" moments that get our attention. It is the "quiet" ones
that allow us to make the changes we must make, to bring the Torah's
plan for creation to fulfillment.
A psalm of Dovid. G-d, hear my prayer, listen to my supplications,
answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness. Do not enter
into strict judgment with Your servant, for no living creature would
be innocent before You. (Tehillim 143:1-2)
The Midrash teaches that G-d wanted, originally, to make the world
function according to strict justice. None of this,
"three-strikes-and-you're-out" business; ONE STRIKE and you're out!
However, continues the Midrash, He saw, in His infinite wisdom, that
no man could ever survive in such a situation, so He instead made the
world run according to mercy, as our very existence, 5761 years later
after the first sin proves.
However, we have also seen over the last 5,761 years, that mercy is
not always the prevailing force, and the Midrash confirms this,
saying that justice was not outdone. Rather, a partnership was
formed, call it, "Justice & Mercy Inc.," if you'd like.
Dovid HaMelech is acknowledging this partnership, and is pleading
that mercy have a strong say in determining the events of his life.
For, the enemy pursued my soul, he ground my life into the dirt, he
sat me in utter darkness, like those who are long dead. When my
spirit grew faint within me, my heart within me was shocked (3-4)
In other words, though it is my enemies who pursue me and embitter my
life, the Talmud teaches that all must first be decreed in Heaven
(Chullin 7b). If so, then what I am undergoing is my own fault --
payment for sins I have committed. Nevertheless, I plead to the side
of mercy, to soften my judgment, and to spare me the full impact of
my wrongdoings -- all of which I regret, of course.
I recalled days of old, I thought about all Your deeds, I spoke about
Your handiwork. I spread out my hands to You, my soul longs for You
like the thirsty land. Selah. (5-6)
After all, that is what it is all about, is it not? What parent
punishes a child just for the sake of punishment? True, as the Talmud
teaches, suffering atones, if we're lucky, after we have done
teshuvah. However, there is an aspect of punishment that comes just
to wake the perpetrator up to the seriousness of their crime. Surely
that part become unnecessary if the sinner has clearly indicated a
sincere and complete understanding of why he must never (willingly)
commit the same transgression.
Answer me soon, O G-d, my spirit is spent; do not hide Your face from
me, making me like those who descend into the pit. Let me hear Your
kindness at dawn, for, in You have I placed my trust; let me know the
way I should walk, for to You have I lifted my soul. (7-8)
"Many are the thoughts of a man's heart, but, the plan of G-d is what
endures" (Mishlei 19:21), or, the Yiddish version (translated): Man
plans and G-d laughs. In simple philosophical terms, it is a question
of working WITH G-d, or AGAINST Him, for what matters is not personal
success, but the success of creation, and, ignoring this reality
causes us to "spin our wheels" until all that is left is despair and
resignation, for abandonment of G-d means abandonment by G-d --
hester panim -- and vulnerability to the agents of evil. Only trust
in G-d can pull us out of the mire.
Rescue me from my enemies, G-d, I have hidden my plight from all but
You. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my G-d. May Your good
spirit guide me over level ground. For Your Name's sake, G-d, revive
me, with Your righteousness remove my soul from distress. And, with
Your kindness cut off my enemies and destroy all who oppress my soul,
for I am Your servant. (9-12)
In Chassidus, it is called "hisbatlus," which, in English translates
loosely as "cancellation," or, "abandonment." It is the state of
mental reality where a person becomes so clear about G-d's greatness
and love for him that he ceases to resist complete spiritual
capitulation to truth, the Truth. It is this that causes the images
of evil to disappear into thin air, and removes all fear of perceived
enemies. For, they exist anyhow just to turn us back to Hashem
Yisborach, and the realization that this are "none other than Him."