Friday, December 27, 2013

VaEira 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 himself 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 Chiddushei HaRim says that if a person would know for sure that God is the source of everything that happens, God would not conceal His presence from that person. 

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 us and take us unto Him as a nation, He promises, “... וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם/… You shall know that I am God your Lord, Who is extracting you from under the oppression of Egypt.” (Shmos 6:7)  By the end of the Exodus it would be obvious that God orchestrated it – and this understanding is the goal.

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 arranged 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 the Torah commands to remember the Exodus every day.  The Exodus 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.  God was in control in Egypt and He is in control now in our own lives.  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.  Arriving at this understanding was the reason that God gave us the difficulty to begin with. 

It is not necessary to wait until we are in distress, though.  We can prevent difficulties as well by remembering this important lesson.  This is the deeper meaning of Chazal’s requirement to remember the Exodus,  ... כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ/… all the days of your life.” (Devarim 16:3)  The implication is that even during those days when we are truly living, because we are close to God, the source of life, we are required to remember that it is He who took us out of Egypt.  By extension, we remember that it is He who is responsible for our good fortune as well as our distress.  This is the deeper meaning behind the view that the requirement to remember the Exodus applies even in the days of Mashi’ach, certainly a good time for us.[1]  It is a time when Chazal tell us that the evil inclination does not rule.[2]  Still, we are required to remember that if it were not for God’s mercy we would still be slaves in Egypt.

Once we reach the understanding that God is in control, not us, and He removes us from the difficult situation in which we may find ourselves, we are able to accept His yoke upon ourselves.  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.[3]  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, an apparent redundancy.  Besides taking us out of Egypt, though, 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.  First God says, “והוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים .../… and I will take you out of the land of Egypt …”  Afterwards He says, “ולקחתי אתכם לי לעם .../… and I will take you to Me for a nation…”  God takes us for His nation only after he redeems us from the oppressive yoke of Egypt.[4]

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!

[1] Mishnayos Brachos 1:5
[2] Succa 52a
[3] Zohar 3:108a
[4] Shmos 6:6-7