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Posted on January 19, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

HASHEM said to Moshe: “Come to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, in order that I may place these signs of Mine in his midst, and in order that you tell into the ears of your son and your son’s son how I made a mockery of the Egyptians, and My signs that I placed in them, and you will know that I am HASHEM.” (Shemos 10:1-2)

HASHEM is explaining to Moshe the reason for this whole giant play, with the Makos, the ten plagues landing on Egypt. It is in order that for all generations we should be able to explain to our children that HASHEM took up our cause and brought the super power of the world, easily, to its knees, and also that it should be known, “you will know that I am HASHEM”. Who is that phrase referring to, “you will know” referring to?

The Kuzari asks an important question. Why did HASHEM make such a small and diminutive claim when introducing Himself to the Jewish People and the world on Mount Sinai? Why does He say, “I am HASHEM Who took you out from the land of Egypt”? HASHEM could have made a much greater claim. I am HASHEM Who made Heaven and Earth.” The Possuk in Iyov may be answering this question with the words, “Where were you when the world was created?” Nobody was there to witness that event. It predated the existence of people and the possibility of the presence of witnesses, obviously. The ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, and the entire miraculous episode of the Exodus was experienced by 600,000 adult males between the age of 20 and 60, perhaps in total 3,000,000 people. It was not a hysterical revolution but rather a historical revelation. HASHEM is now known for all time.

It was a Sunday morning. My wife and I had just spent a glorious Shabbos in Boston. We had two little boys in tow. We decided to travel north to visit Newburyport Mass. where my great grandfather lived most of his adult life and where I remember visiting him. Entering the city, we found only strip malls. I was sure they had already “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. Then like out of a time warp, there it was; the cobblestone street, the lake, the old court house, and a civil war cannon.

As we stood there surveying the area a gentleman approached us and asked, “Are you people-Chassidim?” I told him, “No! We’re just ordinary folk.” He persisted, “Is there a convention going on?” I thought to myself, “Four Jews is a convention. Five would be an incursion, and six would already be an occupation.” I told him, “No! My great grandfather lived here after coming from Russia. He built that Synagogue down the block and his house is there across the street. I’m here to show my children where their great-great grandfather lived, worked, and prayed.” The man stood at attention. Real tears streamed down his cheeks and with a quivering voice he declared, “When I see how you people keep your traditions from generation to generation you are truly G-d’s chosen people.” He backed up respectfully into the day and disappeared. We were stunned. My wife asked in wonderment, “What was that about?”

We reasoned that this fellow just came out from one of those Sunday services where they were reading the Bible which is all about the Jews. However, when they look at the news, they are surprised to find out how often those who seem to be the descendants of the ones mentioned in “the book” represent causes that countermand the values of “the book”. Something’s wrong with this picture! Behold, onto the Mall in Newburyport, Mass. strides a family looking hauntingly authentic, with Yarmulkas, and Tsitsis, and other signs. I’m not saying that I am the paragon of virtue but something must have struck him. The “People of the Book” suddenly appear with a loyalty to “the book” and all is confirmed true. Our sages tell us that HASHEM and the Torah testify about the Jewish People. Hashem and the Jewish People certify the Torah. The Torah and the Jewish People testify about HASHEM. We just walked out of the Bible, and it is as if we stepped down from Mt. Sinai, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, witnesses to the giving of the Torah and all of human history. So, it is written, “You are my witnesses, says HASHEM” (Isaiah 43:10)

Generation after generation, and throughout the year, and each week that is crowned with a Shabbos, and every moment of our Torah lives is a living testament to the fact – the knowledge that HASHEM is indeed the reality of realities.