The current global upheaval due to the raging pandemic, combined with political upheaval, has made us all unsettled; many are even broken and in despair. We all ask, “When will life return to normal?” The Exodus story, which we read about in the Torah portion this week, teaches us a fundamental lesson to help us frame these events and cope with the unexpected twists and turns.
The ten plagues were an attack on the Egyptian nation and the natural world order. They demonstrated G-d’s authority and control over all elements of nature. Ultimately, they forced the leader of the civilized world, Pharaoh, a man who made himself a god, into submission. The Al-mighty stripped Pharaoh of his false sense of control over his world, to the point that he begged his Jewish slaves to leave Egypt after the final plague, the Plague of the Firstborn.
The Torah portion ends with a selection of Commandments: donning Tefillin (phylacteries), the recounting of the Exodus on Passover, and redeeming the firstborn – all reminders for future generations of the Exodus. The Mitzvos of keeping the Sabbath and observing the Jewish holidays also serve as a reminder of the Exodus, as is reflected in the liturgy recited on those days. The Exodus demonstrated G-d’s dominion over the world, and these Mitzvos, many of them daily, and weekly, would ensure the Jewish people never forget.
The message of the Exodus is simple but easily forgotten. Whatever your opinion is of mass media, there’s one thing we can all agree on – its failure to express the hand of G-d of world events. Yet, the fact remains – He is in charge.
With the current rollout of the vaccine, and governmental changes, there’s the potential for our own Exodus from this upheaval and a return to normalcy. But times of upheaval, times when G-d’s presence is more obvious, remind us that “normal life” must still have that same awareness of G-d’s constant involvement in public and private affairs. Adam, the first man, was fully aware of G-d in his life, and the actions of man that followed muddled that reality through the generations that would follow. The lessons of the Exodus were a “reset” for the world, allowing all to see the reality of G-d’s involvement once again. That’s what a return to normalcy looks like – a return to the normalcy of Adam’s freshly minted world.
We all crave the return to the comfort of how things used to be, but our souls will only find true comfort with the knowledge of our Creator’s constant presence in our lives. I do hope life returns to normal soon. It is also my hope and prayer, that we listen to the lessons of the Exodus, and the feelings of our soul, to recognize “normal life” as it was meant to be. (Based on Ramban Ex. 13:16).