Vol 16.07 - Va'eira 1 Spanish French Audio Video
Rashi(6:9) "Because of (their) distress" Also the differences to his commentary at the end of parshat Shmot (6:1); The difference in "the deeds of the Fathers" between the Aggadic portion of Torah (from the perspective of the soul) to the plain portion (pshat) (from the perspective of the body) and the practical difference in the explanation of: "And I appeared to the Patriarchs (Rashi 6:3); The connection to Chof-dalet Tevet - The Hilula of the Alter Rebbe (5738)
Prisons of the Mind
Mitzrayim relates to the Hebrew word meitzarim, meaning “boundaries,” or “limitations.”1 Material existence confines and limits the expression of G‑dliness in the world at large, and the expression of the G‑dly spark within our souls. This is exile, an unnatural state. For the true reality that the world was created to be a dwelling for G‑d,2 and that a person’s soul is an actual part of G‑d3 is concealed. In such a setting, a person becomes absorbed in the daily routine of his life. Spiritual values if he considers them at all are interpreted according to his own world view.4
Moreover, exile naturally perpetuates itself. Our Sages relate5 that not one slave could escape from Egypt. Similarly, any setting in which a person lives creates an inertia that resists change. To borrow an expression from our Sages:6 “A person in fetters cannot set himself free.” Since every person’s thought processes are today shaped by the environment of exile, many find it difficult to see beyond that setting.
An End to Exile
This is the message of Parshas Va’eira. Va’eira means “And I revealed Myself.” The root of Va’eira is the word re’iyah, meaning “sight.” Va’eira refers to something that can be seen directly. This theme is continued throughout the Torah reading, which describes seven of the ten plagues open miracles which had a twofold purpose, as the Torah states:7 “I will display My power,… I will bring forth My hosts from Egypt…. And Egypt will know that I am G‑d.”
These plagues made the whole world conscious of G‑d’s presence. Even the Egyptians whose ruler had proudly boasted:8 “I do not know G‑d,” became aware of Him and acknowledged:9 “This is the finger of G‑d!”
Because the miracles were openly seen, they transformed peoples’ thinking. When an idea is communicated intellectually, it takes time to assimilate it to the point that it affects one’s conduct. When, by contrast, a person sees something with his own eyes, it immediately changes the way he thinks. Once a person sees an event, there is no way he can be convinced that it did not take place.10
A Rich Inheritance
The answer is found in Rashi’s commentary to the verse from which the Torah reading takes its name:11 “And I revealed Myself to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov.” Rashi comments: “To the forefathers.”
Seemingly, this observation is superfluous. We all know that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were the forefathers of the Jewish people. Having mentioned each by name, there is no need to mention their title. Rashi, however, is emphasizing that the revelations were granted to them, not because of their individual virtues, but because they were “forefathers” and their spiritual attainments would be transferred as an inheritance to their descendants.12 By revealing Himself to our forefathers, G‑d made the awareness of His existence a fundamental element in the makeup of their descendants for all time.
Taking Possession of the Legacy
The need to resolve this schism explains why the previous Torah reading, Parshas Shmos, concludes by describing how Moshe approached G‑d, and asked:13 “O G‑d, why do You mistreat Your people?”
Moshe’s question did not reflect a lack of faith. Undoubtedly, Moshe believed; and so did all the people, for Jews are by nature “believers, and the descendants of believers.”14 But Moshe realized that his responsibility was to be a shepherd of faith,15 to nurture the people’s faith until it affected their thinking processes. This is why he asked.
Miracles in Our Lives
Similar concepts apply in every generation, for miracles are not a thing of the past.16 In every generation, G‑d shows His great love for His people by performing deeds that transcend the natural order. At times, a person for whom a miracle occurs may not recognize what has happened,17 and on other occasions the miracles are open, obvious for all to see. Indeed, in the recent past, we have seen great wonders which G‑d has wrought on our behalf, among them: the Gulf War, the fall of Communism, and the massive waves of Jews coming to Eretz Yisrael.
Our prophets have promised:18 “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” Just as the miracles which G‑d wrought in Egypt heralded the exodus, so too, may the miracles we have witnessed and will witness in the future foreshadow the ultimate Redemption. And may this take place in the immediate future.
2. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3. See Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.
3. Tanya, ch. 2.
4. In this context, the concept of Mitzrayim Egypt becomes personal. Everyone has his “Egypt” which confines him and from which he must be redeemed. For one person, the forces preventing his inner G‑dly nature from being expressed may be his unchecked physical desires, and for another they might be the reservations of his intellect.There is even an “Egypt of holiness,” which constrains a person who is devoted to the study of the Torah and the observance of its mitzvos, but who is held back by an unwillingness to make an unrestrained commitment. The nature of our personal “Egypts” may differ, but the obligation to struggle to transcend these limits is universal. This is the meaning of the requirement to recall the exodus from Egypt every day.
5. Mechilta quoted in Rashi, Shmos 18:9.
6. Berachos 5b.
7. Exodus 7:4-5.
8. Ibid. 5:2.
9. Ibid. 8:15.
10. The effect of sight is reflected in Jewish law: a witness cannot serve as a judge (Rosh HaShanah 26a). Once a person has seen the commission of a crime, he is unable to fairly appreciate an argument advanced on behalf of the defendant.
11. Exodus 6:4.
12. This concept is also accentuated by Jewish law. The transfer of property to an heir is unique in that, unlike a purchaser or the receiver of a present, an heir is not considered a new owner, but a continuation of the testator. (See Bava Batra 159a, Tzafnat Paneach, Milluim 13a, et al). Similarly, with regard to our inheritance of our forefather’s spiritual legacy, the revelations which they received are passed on to us as they were received, without modification.
13. Exodus 6:22.
14. Shabbos 97a. See Rashi, Exodus 4:2.
15. See Torah Or, Ki Sisa 111a, and the maamar, ViKibeil HaYehudim 5687. The Pesichta to Eichah Rabbah, sec. 24, refers to Moshe by the Hebrew title: רועה נאמן, meaning “faithful shepherd.” The Aramaic version, רעיא מהמנא (which serves as the title of one of the parts of the Zohar), has that meaning too, but also connotes “shepherd of faith.”
16. Therefore the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 218:9), a text which contains only laws applicable in the present era, includes a requirement to recite a blessing acknowledging a miracle that transpired in one life’s.
17. See Niddah 31a.
18. Michah 7:15.
Believers and Sons of Believers
Moreover, Rashi ,13 quoting the Midrash on the verse14 “And I revealed Myself to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov…” writes that G‑d said to Moshe: “Alas for those who have passed on and whose likes are not to be found. I mourn the passing of the Patriarchs…. They did not question My actions as you question My actions.”
How is it possible to say that Moshe, the “select of mankind,”15 questioned G‑d’s actions, and to compare him unfavorably with the Patriarchs?
Rashi comments on the statement “And I revealed Myself” and says: “To the Patriarchs.” Many commentators on Rashi ask: what does Rashi add? The verse itself goes on to say that G‑d appeared “to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov”?
By stating “To the Patriarchs,” Rashi is in effect saying that the clear and unequivocal revelation of G‑dliness to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov — for which reason they did not question G‑d’s actions — stemmed from the very fact that they were the Patriarchs of the Jewish people.16 In other words, such revelations were granted these three in order that they bequeath them17 to their descendants, for “A father bequeaths his son… wisdom.”18
Accordingly, the question becomes even greater: Since every Jew enjoys the revelation of G‑dliness as an inheritance from the Patriarchs, how was it possible for Moshe to be critical of G‑d’s actions?
Our Sages tell us that the exodus from Egypt came about in the merit of and as a reward for the Jews’ belief in G‑d.19 This means that the revelation within the Jewish people of this essential aspect of their Jewishness made them worthy of redemption.
Even in the midst of the most severe Egyptian oppression, the Jews were called “believers, the children of believers.”20 But this inherited, almost unconscious belief — this “baseline belief” — was not yet fully developed and revealed within them. In order to be redeemed in their own merit, it was necessary that the Jews’ natural belief in and unity with G‑d be consciously recognized — that it become wholly theirs.
This is what Moshe was able to accomplish, for herein lay the difference between him and the Patriarchs: As bequeathed by the Patriarchs, the essential hallmarks of Jewishness are something every Jew has as a natural consequence of being a child of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.21
Moshe, however, in addition to being one of the “Seven Shepherds that draws down vitality and G‑dliness to all Jewish souls,” is also the “sum of them all, and is called the Faithful Shepherd.”22 Moshe causes the faith possessed by every Jew to permeate all aspects of his being.
Moshe’s question: “Why have you dealt badly?” and G‑d’s response: “I have revealed Myself to the Patriarchs” will be understood accordingly:
Since the time for the Jews’ liberation from Egypt was fast approaching, and Moshe was acting as G‑d’s emissary to redeem them, it was necessary that the people’s inherited belief in G‑d come to permeate them completely.
Moshe’s question “Why have you dealt badly?” elicited G‑d’s revelatory response — va’eira — which brought the Jews to so believe in G‑d that faith penetrated every fibre of their being. Even the lower levels of their intellect — the levels that give rise to doubts — would now be permeated with unquestioning belief in G‑d.
The redemption came about as a result of Moshe’s question and G‑d’s response.
12. Shmos 6:2.
13. Ibid. verse 9.
14. Ibid. verse 3.
15. Pirush HaMishnayos of the Rambam , chapter of Cheilek , in the Seventh Principle.
16. See Likkutei Sichos III , p. 855ff.
17. See Torah Or, Va’eira.
18. Ediyos 2:9.
19. Mechiltah , Beshallach 14:31; Yalkut ibid., Remez 240.
20. Shmos 4:31; Shabbos 97a. See also commentary of Rashi on Shmos 4:2.
21. See Tanya chs. 18-19.
22. Tanya ch. 42.
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