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Posted on January 12, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, ‘I am HASHEM, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a G-d to you, and you will know that I am HASHEM your G-d, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Shemos 6:6-7)

Every good lesson requires a goal. The students should know in advance what they are going to learn. Then the teacher cleverly imparts his lessons and in the end checks to see if the goal of the lesson hit its mark and the intended message was actually and successfully delivered. The goal of this lesson plan, this exercise entitled “Exodus from Egypt” is explicitly spelled out. When all is said and done, the Jewish People will “know that I am HASHEM, your G-d”. That is exactly what a great teacher does!

The Zohar writes: This is the first Mitzvah of all the Mitzvos, to know that there is the Holy One Blessed Be He in general. What is in general? To know that there is an Almighty Ruler on High and He is the Master of the world and He creates all of the worlds, heaven and earth and all of its agents. This is in general and the end of the matter is in detail. General and detail they are; the beginning and the end.”

What is this talk of general and specific knowledge? If we take a brief look at the Ten Commandments, the way they were configured on the Luchos we might gain a picture of what this is about. Crowning the top on the first side, which contains Mitzvos between Man and G-d is that grand proclamation, “I am HASHEM your G-d Who took you out of the Land of Egypt!” There it is the general declaration! Sitting on the bottom is “Honor your mother and father”.

Why are they on the side between Man and G-d? There are many answers and approaches. Let us try this simple one. The Ten Commandments are not just a random sample of the 613 Mitzvos. It is an orientation to reality. The supreme and global reality is that HASHEM alone made, makes, and will make everything in the universe.

On the local and personal level, the parents we were gifted with, the DNA that we inherited is specifically designed and tailored for the purpose of our existence. This is the seat we were assigned on the airplane of life, by HASHEM. It’s not negotiable! It’s a fact of life, a given, and given for a supernal reason!

Looking out directly to the side, neighboring the Mitzvah of honoring parents is a similar idea and ideal of not being jealous of what has been granted to your neighbor. Reb Wolbe zl. said that the last of the Ten Commandments is a final exam on the first. If one understands well and has internalized that HASHEM is master decider in all these matters great and small, local and global, then he cannot be jealous of what somebody else has. That’s the cure to existential anxiety, nausea, forlornness, and despair. It’s the key to happiness to accept and work with reality rather than against reality.

I remember many years ago our family was settling down at the Pesach Seder and my mother was arranging the seating in a small dining room to the best of her ability. It was like a parking lot puzzle. I had an uncle Zevy, a soft sweet intellectual person who was joining us that year. My mother apologized to him that his seat was on the corner of a rickety card table with an equally shaky folding chair. My mother said, “I’m sorry you didn’t get such a great seat.” He responded incredibly, “It’s Ok! I’ll make it great!” That, for me, was rich, and memorable! “I’ll make it great! Not having this orientation can be maddening. Everything is seen as negotiable, fluid, or judged as a cosmic mistake and something to feel bitter and complain about. It makes a world of difference!

Many years ago, I heard directly from the mouth of the Tzadik of Monsey, Rabbi Mordechai Schwab ztl. dramatically recited the whole Adon Olam, “Master of the Universe before any creature was created … He was, He is, and He will be- He is One – there is no comparison to Him – Without beginning, without end…and after all these grandiose proportions, he rubbed his heart gently and declared, “Hu Eli” – “He is my G-d”. HASHEM, not as a distant entity but an intimate – personal G-d who is deeply interested in every detail of your life and my life, as we often say, “OMG”!