Pharaoh said to him, "Go away! Know that you will no longer see my
On that day that you see my face, you will die!" (Shemos 10:28)
G-d runs the world. He moves all the pieces and players. True, we have
free-will, and the world was made to act as a stage on which to exercise
it, but hey, at least when He sends us to do something, we should succeed.
Not that the Master of the Universe has to roll out the red carpet for us,
but at least He should make the going smooth.
True, He made rules that govern Creation, and He seems to act according to
them. What good would those rules be if G-d Himself always kept breaking
the rules? No, He made those rules to create a world that could support
our usage of free-will, something that seems to be far more important to
Him than to us, and if He kept performing miracles for us every time we
got into trouble, then free-will would go out the window.
However, there are limits to this idea. For example, if G-d personally
calls on someone to do His work, it should be clear at that point that
the "natural" rules of normal everyday life no longer apply. I mean,
what's the point of Moshe Rabbeinu going before Pharaoh in the name of
Hashem and performing a miracle that, as it turns out, every school kid in
Egypt could also do. You call that a Kiddush Hashem?
It is kind of like the concept of yeridah tzorech aliyah (going down for
the sake of going up). Unfortunately, in this "upside down" world, you
have to go down first before you can go up. It's not something you can
plan, because everyone who ever has planned, usually has failed, starting
with Adam HaRishon and others throughout history. It's also the idea of
entering a test without being invited.
Life is one big test. We don't always see it like that, but it is. At
least for those still in the ball game, which means: 1) believing in G-d,
2) believing in Torah, and 3) understanding and appreciating the existence
of the yetzer hara (the evil inclination). The first one is necessary to
establish an objective level of truth, the second means that you agree
that it has been communicated to us, and the third one allows us to
appreciate how we can rationalize and distort the truth.
Without these three traits, a person can do whatever he wants and hardly
ever feel bad about it. If he doesn't believe in G-d, there is no Absolute
Morality, only man's opinion and the convenience of societal cooperation.
If a person believes in G-d, but not in Torah, then he will be spiritually
sensitive, but often off the mark regarding what G-d truly wants. And it
won't be his fault, he reasons, since G-d kept the truth to Himself.
Even if a person believes in G-d and Torah from Heaven, but not in the
yetzer hara and its influence, then he can convince himself that he is
living by Torah when in fact, he is in error, sometimes a very grave
error. He can think he is exercising his free-will when in fact he has
surrendered it to his yetzer hara, which can interfere with a person
keeping mitzvos as long as he makes an essential error in his
Getting involved in situations that are spiritually dangerous, is one such
example, knowing full well it will test his moral resolve. Not
understanding the yetzer hara means that he will be unable to see how,
after entering the spiritually dangerous situation, the Chitzonim will
latch onto him, and pull him down a slippery path towards sin. We don't
know ourselves well enough to enter tests on our own.
Moshe was very great in Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh's servants, and
the eyes of the people. (Shemos 11:3)
That is the reason, the Leshem explains, why Moshe turned down G-d for
seven straight days. G-d was sending him back down to Egypt, which Moshe
knew only too well, was a place of such intense spiritual impurity, and he
was concerned about it.
Therefore, G-d had Moshe throw his stick to the ground so that it could
become a snake, the symbol of spiritual impurity. Moshe fled, not because
he was afraid of the snake, but because of what it represented. Therefore,
G-d insisted that he pick it up by the tail to symbolize that Moshe, when
the time comes, would have the ability, with G-d's help, to subdue Pharaoh
and his world.
In other words, unlike Adam HaRishon, Moshe Rabbeinu was invited by G-d
into his test, which meant that he could succeed, because G-d does not
give a test that a person cannot pass. If G-d was setting up Moshe's
mission for him, then he was destined to succeed, and in a big way, a VERY
After all, the geulah from Egypt was not only about saving the Jewish
people, it was also about saving all subsequent generations of Jews as
well, if not physically, then spiritually. The noise that Geulas Mitzrayim
made had to echo down through over three thousand years. That's a very BIG
noise and a lot of drama.
This is why there were ten plagues even though G-d told Moshe that Pharaoh
would not surrender until after the death of the firstborn. In order to
guarantee that the redemption truly revealed the hand of G-d, the
situation had to appear hopeless, it had to seem as if Pharaoh was in
control of the situation, and as if Moshe Rabbeinu was helpless to change
That way, when the situation turned around and things started going
Moshe's way, it would be clear that G-d was the "engine," so-to-speak,
driving the geulah. And, not just at the point of turnaround, but the
entire way through, including the moments that events seemed to work
against redemption. Indeed, he who laughed first (Pharaoh), laughed last,
and in fact, Pharaoh did not laugh at all in the end. And when that moment
came, it reflected back on the early days, when Moshe Rabbeinu was only
turning sticks into snakes and snakes back into sticks again, and Pharaoh
was then able to see how he was set up for his fall.
It was like Yosef's brothers, l'havdil. After Yosef revealed himself, they
were not beside themselves with joy. Instead, they were shocked because
the moment reflected back over the last 22 years, revealing how they had
been mistaken in all that had occurred.
They said to one another, "The dreamer is coming. Let's kill him, and
throw him into one of the pits. We will say a wild animal has eaten him;
then we'll see what will become of his dreams." (Bereishis 37:19-20)
They laughed first, and they laughed last, as they beheld how the Master
Conspirator had taken advantage of their own failure to cause the success
of Yosef. Likewise with Pharaoh, only because he had been so stubborn in
the beginning, he was duly humbled in the end, while Moshe Rabbeinu who
had been so patient and humble in the beginning, was made to be great in
"Moshe was very great in Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh's servants, and
the eyes of the people."
The red carpet came, not at the beginning of the mission, but at the end
of it. And, this is an important lesson and source of chizuk for anyone
doing the work of G-d. Any lack of success you may have at the beginning
is no reason to despair or to question Divine Providence. It is reason
enough to be patient and wait for the final outcome. For, what we perceive
as failure or a lack of success is really just the laying down of the
groundwork for a much greater level of success, when that eventual moment
"You must eat it with your waist belted, your shoes on, and your staff
your hand. Eat it quickly . . ." (Shemos 12:11)
"Is the bag packed?" I called out from the front hall. Of course it's
packed, I told myself. It's been packed for the last month. However, it
had become a ritual to ask anyhow.
The rabbis in a mishnah in Mesechta Shabbos enumerate things that should
be asked just before Shabbos comes in, to make sure that nothing for
Shabbos is omitted in the midst of the last minute preparations. In some
homes that list includes: Is the bag packed?
Yet, in spite of the preparations people make in advance of a birth, like
figuring out the quickest route to the hospital, and making sure that the
woman has all the comforts with her that she will need at that time, time
is not always on the couple's or new baby's side. Countless stories abound
of women giving birth in taxis, on hospital sidewalks, going up or down in
elevators (and on Shabbos to boot), not to mention but a few of the more
Fortunately for one woman on a Motzei Yom Kippur, an ambulance just
happened to pull up next to her car as she began to give birth in the back
seat on the way to the hospital. They rushed her from one vehicle into the
next, where she promptly gave birth with the experts there to help. Lucky
It's like, one minute you're there enjoying a cup of tea together, and the
next, rushing to get out the door and on the way to the hospital. In spite
of the nine months of psychological preparation, and the weeks of physical
preparation, it always comes as a surprise when the moment of redemption
comes. That is why you have to have as much prepared in advance as
possible, including the packed suitcase sitting lonely-like by the front
Do you think it is any different when it comes to the redemption of an
entire nation? Exile isn't over until it's over, and when it has lasted
for so long, it is too hard to believe it is actually ending when it does.
Chazal knew that, which is why they compared the Final Redemption to a
birth process, and why the Jewish people were asked to conduct their
Sedarim with staff in hand, as if they would leave at a moment's notice.
I know a person, believe it or not, who lives in the Diaspora, but who has
a strong yearning for redemption. So, not to forget where his and the rest
of the Jewish people are ultimately heading, something that is so easy to
do when one is prospering in some host country, he has a suitcase packed
by his front door. Not an empty one, but a full one, and I wouldn't be
surprised if has written on it, "For when the redemption comes, may it be
speedily in our time."
I'm sure some laugh at it, and I'm sure some quietly think he is nuts.
Personally, I think he is right on the money, and he is one of the very
few to have learned anything from the Pesach Seder. After all, the Final
Redemption is only the completion of the first one from Egypt. The fact
that four-fifths of the Jewish people died in the ninth plague of darkness
shows how uncertain redemption appeared even at that late stage of the
Perhaps, then, WE are much later along in that final process than we
think. Time to pack, at least one bag. In Egypt, it was part of the emunah
the Jewish people had to show to merit the redemption. It will also be
part of the merit that we will need to merit the redemption in our time,
may it come speedily.
Moshe told it to the Children of Israel, but they did not listen to
because their spirit was broken, and because of the hardness of their
work. (Shemos 6:9)
I don't usually return to the beginning of the parshah at the end of the
Dvar Torah, especially when that beginning belongs to last week's parshah.
However, this time that beginning has a lot to do with the geulah of this
week's parshah, and our geulah as well.
When Moshe Rabbeinu returned six months later to inform the Jewish people
of the great news, that this time they would actually leave Egypt, his
words fell on deaf ears. Well, not actually deaf ears, but on ears too
tired to listen, the result of what the Torah calls, "kotzer ruach," the
kind of shortness of breath associated with one who has lost all hope.
That is what happened to the Jewish people in the interim of six months,
and that is the way Moshe Rabbeinu found his brothers when he returned,
and that is also the way the Allies found the Jews at the end of the
Holocaust. Like the Egyptians before them, the Nazis, y"s, had not only
sought to destroy the Jews, but to destroy Judaism altogether, by
destroying every last vestige of Jewish hope. And, that is precisely when
G-d steps in:
A song of ascents. From the depths I called You, Hashem . . . (Tehilim
Well, it is happening again. When I moved to Eretz Yisroel some twenty
years ago, I never imagined that we'd ever even discuss giving away
sections of Eretz Yisroel, especially to Arabs bent on our destruction.
Naively, I thought that even the most left-wing politician in this country
could see the foolishness of that. By 1988, it became clear that I may
have been wrong. By 1993, I knew I was wrong.
To talk about giving up land and destroying viable Jewish communities in
the name of "peace" (read: p-i-e-c-e) is one thing, but to actually follow
through with such insanity is something altogether different. Alas, the
world is insane, and last year we saw just how infectious that insanity
The Galil will be destroyed and Gablan will be demolished. The people of
the border will travel from city to city and find no grace. (Sanhedrin 97a)
What a prediction, and seemingly, one that has come true, and with an
effect so traumatizing for redemption believers that they find themselves
short of spiritual breath. And now with Chevron in the cross-hairs of the
Israeli government and world powers, that breath seems to be getting
shorter. Where will all this insanity end, and when?
There are prophecies about this, but no one wants to open their mouths to
the Satan, so-to-speak. Just the mere nagging thought of how far a
government bent on internationalizing the Jewish state will go is enough
to knock the wind out of any believing Jew, especially when we are made to
feel so helpless about the situation, while the Israeli press, like the
government lap dogs, turn a blind eye to the tragedy developing between
Jew and Jew.
Kotzer ruach is a code word, the name of a secret operation
called, "Operation Geulah." It is a signal that Moshe Rabbeinu, albeit in
the body of Moshiach, is just around the corner, and perhaps already on
our side of it. In a G-dless world, despair leads to depression, and
perhaps even more dire circumstances. But, in G-d's world, when anxiously
waits for geulah, it leads to redemption, and like in Pharaoh's time, the
greater the people are kotzer ruach, the faster Moshiach has to come to
save the day.
May it be so, and quickly in our time.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.