Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Va'Eira 5631 Second Ma'amar

Why must we sometimes endure exile, distress and troubles? The fundamental reason for all exile on a national level and distress and troubles for each of us individually is so that we will recognize that it is God who is in control, not us. If we do not appreciate Him when things are going well for us, His answer is to hide from us and let us fend for ourselves, in a manner of speaking. Then, when things start to fall apart, we realize just how much we need Him. The Chidushei HaRim says that if a person would know for sure that God is the source of everything that happens, there would be no reason to conceal His presence.

We find this concept in the p’sukim at the beginning of this week’s parsha. After God asks Moshe to tell the children of Israel that He will take them out of Egyptian bondage, redeem them and take them unto Him as a nation, He promises, “... וידעתם כי אני ה' אלקיכם המוציא אתכם מתחת סבלות מצרים/… You shall know that I am God, your Lord Who is extracting you from under the oppression of Egypt.” By the end of the Exodus it would be obvious that God orchestrated it.

The exile and exodus from Egypt is a lesson for all generations and for each of us on a personal level. When we realize that everything that happens to us is orchestrated by God, then the reason for the tribulations is removed and there is a redemption of sorts, reminiscent of our redemption from Egypt. It is for this reason that we are commanded to remember the Exodus every day. It is a reminder that it is not through our own efforts but rather by the grace of God that we are not slaves in Egypt today. The way out of difficult situations is by remembering this principle. To the extent that it becomes clear to us that God is in control, not us, we are able to extract ourselves from every difficult situation in which we find ourselves.
It is not necessary to wait until we are in distress. We can prevent difficulties as well by remembering this important lesson. This is the deeper meaning of Chazal’s requirement to remember the Exodus, “... כל ימי חייך/… all the days of your life.” The implication is that even during those days when you are truly living, because you are close to God, the source of life, you are required to remember that it is He who took you out of Egypt. By extension, we remember that it is He who orchestrates our good fortune as well as our distress. It is the deeper meaning behind the view that this requirement applies even in the days of Mashi’ach, certainly a good time for us. It is a time when Chazal tell us that the evil inclination does not rule. Still, we are required to remember, that if it were not for God’s mercy we would still be slaves in Egypt.

Only after the Exodus when we were no longer enslaved, were we able to accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven. The Zohar explains that as long as a person has upon him a burden, he cannot accept the yoke of God. This is the reason a slave is exempt from the mitzvah of Kri’as Sh’ma. He is exempt from accepting the yoke of heaven upon himself because he is subject to the authority of his master. This also explains why we thank God in the second Brachah of Birchas HaMazon for both taking us out of Egypt and for redeeming us from the house of bondage. Besides taking us out of Egypt, removing the Egyptian yoke from us is worthy of thanks in and of itself. It allowed us to subsequently accept the yoke of heaven. We see this in the p’sukim at the beginning of our parsha. God takes us for His nation only after he redeems us from the oppressive yoke of Egypt.

This very same idea applies to each one of us any time we find ourselves in a distressful situation. In order to fully accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven, we first need to be extracted from the situation. We do this by accepting that it is God who put us in the difficulty. He did this so that we may come to the realization that He is in complete control, not us. This recognition helps us to leave the distress behind and allows us to accept the yoke of heaven. God, in his mercy, has given us these tools so that each of us may experience his own personal Exodus every day. May we merit it!

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