Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on January 23, 2020 (5780) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

And also, I heard the moans of the Children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant. (Shemos 6:5)

For those who showed interest, I FINALLY received my Canadian passport. I am so GRATEFUL that the saga is over, and ever good saga deserves an ode when it is done. Here’s mine. I finally received my new Canadian passport / It was not cheap and the time was not short / Back and forth between home and Tel Aviv / How many times you would never believe / Thank God all things do come to their end / The passage of time can be a good friend / Patience in life such a great virtue / Redemption does come so to God remain true.

IT IS NEVER a question of IF, but of IN WHAT. Faith is an integral part of ANYONE’S life, even an atheist. There are so many unknowns in life, and if you don’t have faith in something or someone, then you won’t get out of bed in the morning. It’s an unshakable part of being human.

At least when it comes to people or physical objects, we can assess to what extent it is safe to rely on them. We may over-estimate or under-estimate sometimes, but at least we can estimate. There is a certain amount of security in knowing what CAN be expected, and what CAN’T be.

It is a completely different story when it comes to God. It is so hard, actually IMPOSSIBLE, to assess to what extent we can rely upon God. People have done so and failed miserably. People who haven’t relied upon Him at all have succeeded fabulously. Righteous people suffer while far-from-righteous people prosper. It has been enough to make a lot of people choose to ignore the God avenue. They rely on less capable but more predictable sources of support.

They have it all wrong. You know what it is like? It is like a child who lives at home and depends upon his parents for everything. They provide the child with a warm and loving home, three good meals every day, clothing, schooling, recreational activities, vacations, etc, etc., etc. And this goes on year-after-year-after-year without fail.

Then one day, the child, now a young adult, gets into their head to ask the parents for a car. They say no to the request for one good reason or another, but not at all to simply deny something their child wants. In fact, they would like to give their child what they desire but hold back for the child’s own good.

That’s not how the child sees it, however. From the child’s perspective, he has made one request, and the parents have denied it. Disappointed, dejected, and upset, the child shouts back “I can’t rely on you for ANYTHING!”

People have difficulty with emunah because they lack adequate appreciation for what God has CONTINUOUSLY done for them all along. They take their lives for granted. The miracle of life is no miracle for them, and a sense of entitlement blinds them to the good they have on a momentary basis.

This is a deeper understanding of the following verse about the Jews in the desert. Dovid HaMelech lamented:

Despite all this, they sinned again and did not believe in His wonders. (Tehillim 78:32)

The Jews of the desert worried a lot about their welfare, in spite of all that God had ALREADY done for them until that point. But what does it mean that they did not believe in His wonders? They saw them with their own eyes, experienced them personally. There was not one among them who tried to rationalize any of the miracles away as “natural phenomenon.”

Then what was their lack of belief? It was in how they didn’t apply the miracles to the future. They did the first step of acknowledging the greatness of the miracles God did for them and showed appreciation. But they did not use them as the basis to believe in God to overcome future uncertainty. They did not turn their emunah into bitachon—trust.

That’s how it works in any relationship. There is a trial period during which the different sides of the relationship have to prove their willingness to support one another. If it happens often enough and consistently, then they become “ne’eman—trustworthy” to one another.

This is why a professional in any trade is called an “uman.” They are tried and tested and have proven themselves worthy of the trust of those who purchase from them. PAST successes allow the customer to rest assured that there will be FUTURE successes as well.

A great example of this was Miriam, Moshe Rabbeinu’s sister. It was her EMUNAH that led to her BITACHON which led to the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu. That led to the redemption of the entire Jewish people, as the Talmud relates.

As a child, Miriam would say: “In the future, my mother will give birth to a son who will save the Jewish people.” Once Moshe was born, the entire house was filled with light. Her father arose and kissed her on her head and said to her: “My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled.” But once they put him into the river, her father arose and hit her on her head and said to her: “My daughter, where is your prophecy?” And this what it says: “And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him” (Shemos 2:4), i.e., to know what will be the completion of her prophecy. (Sotah 13a)

We have to understand the background of this midrash. Pharaoh had already decreed that all male Jewish babies be drowned in the Nile river. Amram, Miriam’s father and Torah leader of the generation, went a step further. He forbid the birth of ANY Jewish children, to end the possibility of Jewish children being murdered.

Miriam thought about this, and then approached her father and complained that Pharaoh’s decree only affected the male babies. His decree of no children affected ALL future Jewish babies and was therefore harsher. Therefore, she insisted to her father, the decree of no children should be lifted and husbands and wives should resume building their families once more.

But what kind of argument was that? Was it really worth taking a chance that a baby would be a girl when it could just as easily be a boy? Furthermore, who would the girls eventually marry if all the boys were being killed at birth? Amram had been the gadol hador. He had to have made the same calculation before making his decree.

That’s why it wasn’t THIS argument that Miriam had expected to convince her father to rescind his decision. It was the thing Miriam used to say:

“In the future, my mother will give birth to a son who will save the Jewish people.”

Pure bitachon. In spite of the danger of having children, Miriam argued that good HAD to come of it all. Light HAD to come from within the darkness. “Your decree may be saving us in the short run,” Miriam argued with her father, “but it is killing us in the long run. Moshiach is bound to be born at some point…because it was promised and foretold to our ancestors. We have to assume that it will come true.”

Thus, as an act of faith in God and the future of the Jewish people, Amram took back his wife, and all other men followed suit. And THAT was when Moshe Rabbeinu was born…a child of emunah…the very SYMBOL of Jewish redemption.

There he was, a child who should have died at birth, and who was set adrift upon the mighty river to see what Divine Providence would do with him. And lo and behold, he floated right into the hands of the daughter of the very king who wanted him dead, but she saved him instead.

No doubt Pharaoh was made aware of the origin of the baby which she brought home from her day at the beach. Obviously, it wasn’t hers, and obviously, it had to be Jewish…and yet he did not order the baby killed. That even though his astrologers probably kept reminding him of the Jew who would one day depose him.

The hottest things became was when baby Moshe was put to a test after swiping Pharaoh’s crown right off his head, placing it on his own. That had to have sent the Egyptian astrologers into a frenzy, forcing Pharaoh to give his adopted son a choice between the crown and hot coal. Which baby wouldn’t go for the shiny crown?

Baby Moshe sure wanted to, and he would have taken the crown had not an angel redirected his hand to the burning hot coal, causing him to burn himself. Hashgochah Pratis was clearly at work, steering the life of Moshe around all obstacles and over all hurdles meant to stop him from one day becoming “Rabbeinu.”

It was part of the message of the burning bush. It burned but was not consumed. It alluded to the destiny of the Jewish people, and Moshe himself. Both “burned,” meaning that they had to suffer in ways that would have NATURALLY destroyed anyone else, and yet they SURVIVED. They would ALWAYS survive, just as Miriam had reminded her father.