This Parsha Insights is dedicated to:
Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Goldberg of Chicago, IL.
In recognition of their support of Torah Study.
May they have many long and healthy years.
(the loss of awareness of Hashem's presence)
"And I will take you to Myself as a People, and I will be your
G-d. Then you will know that I am Hashem, the One who took you out from
the subjugation of Egypt." (Exodus 6:7)
The verse states, ". . . then you will know that I am Hashem
. . .". It is as if to say, that up until now the Children of
Israel did not know Hashem. They had become distanced from Him so
much so, that they had to learn all over again. It is a condition which
in part, brought on the Egyptian exile.
The Baal ShemTov taught that not only were the physical bodies
of the Israelites enslaved, but so too their minds. Pharaoh worked them
so hard that they didn't have any time to think about their situation;
to contemplate if there was or was not a G-d who was concerned for them.
That is the meaning of, "Increase the difficulty of the work for
the men, and make sure they do it. . .". (Exodus 5:9)
Some of the people were even drawn into Egyptian idol worship. They
had forgotten the lessons of faith implanted in them by the Avos
and they ceased to contemplate the meaning of a benevolent G-d who created
and sustains the world; a G-d who maneuvers everything for the benefit
of His people. They forgot that it is Hashem who establishes kings,
and Hashem who deposes them at His will. This is Golus HaDa'as,
the absence of the awareness of Hashem in the world.
The eventual coming of the Messiah will be a time of divine knowledge
for all, as the Rambam writes in the end of Hilchos Melachim
(12:5). "And the time will come when there will be no more hunger
or war, no more jealousy or competition. Goodness will predominate the
world and fine things will be as common as the dust. The whole world will
be occupied with only one thing; to know Hashem. Therefore, Israel
will be full of scholars brimming with wisdom, erudite in mystical matters,
and each one achieving insight into the ways of Hashem, according to his
ability, as it is written, "And the world will be full of the knowledge
of Hashem as the seas are full of water." (Isaiah 11:9)
That is why B'nai Yisrael, after the revelation of the Torah
at Mt.Sinai, were called Dor De'ah, the Generation of Knowledge.
The redemption from Egypt and the subsequent giving of the Torah served
to complete the knowledge of Hashem which B'nai Yisrael had been
lacking. The generation of the desert was able to achieve spiritual heights
(despite some stumblings found in the book of Numbers), because they learned
to apply what they knew in order to experience the presence of Hashem.
Because of the severity of the servitude in Egypt it had formerly been
The Baal ShemTov represented a spark of the Messiah. Once the
Baal ShemTov asked the Messiah, "Master, when will you arrive?"
The Messiah answered him back. "You should know, that it will be when
you will disseminate your teachings (his Chassidic doctrine) and
reveal yourself to the world; spreading the wellsprings of your wisdom.
That which I have taught you and you have achieved, others can also aspire
to, effecting unifications and experiencing spiritual ascents. Then all
the impure husks will fall away and there will arise a time favorable for
The Messiah required the Baal ShemTov to disseminate his teachings
and to apply them in the world. It was, and still is a prerequisite for
the final redemption.
**When one doesn't apply what he has learned and make it available in
the world, that is Golus HaDa'as.**
Everybody asks, "Why did the Egyptians need so many plagues? Couldn't
Hashem have begun with the Killing of the First-Born and finished off Egypt
quickly?" The answer is, that the plagues were for the benefit of
Israel. They needed to relearn the ways of Hashem in the world.
Through the 10 plagues, they again understood that the world operates according
to Hashem's Divine Providence. The benefit of Klal Yisrael is foremost
in His thoughts.
So well did Klal Yisrael learn their lesson, that by the time
they got to the Red Sea and passed through it on dry land, Chazal testify
(Mechilta 15:3), that a simple maid servant reached a level of understanding
of divine revelation that even the prophet Ezekiel didn't reach!
Because of this, Chazal exhort us to mention the Exodus from
Egypt twice every day in our prayers, "And you put signs and wonders
in the land of Egypt until this very day", declared the prophet
Jeremiah (32:20). The meaning is, that reflection on the events of the
exile and slavery and the subsequent redemption can be a catalyst for one
to break out of his Golus HaDa'as, and to reach full cognizance
of the presence of Hashem. "In every generation, one is obligated
to consider himself as if he himself came up out of Egypt." (Passover
Haggadah) This is the breaking of Golus HaDa'as.
This is also the underlying idea of Da'as Torah, the authority
of the foremost Torah sages. There are a few in every generation,
who because of their supreme mastery of the Torah, have the clarity
to see things as they really are without any husks blurring their vision.
One who follows their advice will not be led wrong.
HaKores HaTov (gratitude)
"When Pharaoh saw some relief from the (plague) he hardened
his heart and didn't listen to them, just as Hashem had predicted."
As was mentioned in Parshas Vayetzei, the root of the Jewish
soul is the expression of thanks and gratitude. We are called Yehudim,
after Yehudah, the son of Yaacov and Leah. The name Yehudah comes from
the same root as "to thank". This is the essence of a Jew, constantly
thanking Hashem. A Jew understands that everything that Hashem
gives is a gift. In reality, we don't deserve anything, nevertheless Hashem
gives. And we thank Hashem for it.
Not only the one who is sick and is healed or the one who is in distress
and is rescued needs to praise and thank Hashem. Certainly he feels
it more acutely. Nevertheless, everybody is obligated to thank Hashem
since He sustains the world. Would that He would remove His attention from
it for even a split second, all of creation would return to chaos.
Psalm 107 speaks about the different types of people who need to express
gratitude to Hashem and how he exhibits control over every aspect of the
world. As it says (verse 43), "Whoever is wise and takes note of
all this, will comprehend the kindness' of Hashem."
Pharaoh, the moment he felt relief from the wrath of the plagues, reverted
to his previous hard-hearted state. He refused to recognize the hand of
Hashem and express the gratitude due to Him.
We see in the Parsha a number of examples of Hakores Hatov.
When it came to initiating the plague of blood (which affected the water),
and the plague of lice (which affected the soil), Aaron was called upon
instead of Moshe Rabbenu to strike the water and the soil with Moshe's
staff. Rashi quotes the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 9:10) which
states that because Moshe Rabbenu was helped by the water (when he was
an infant in the little ark), and the soil (where he buried the Egyptian
taskmaster), it would not be a proper show of gratitude for him to strike
them. If Moshe Rabbenu was careful to exhibit such a level of gratitude
towards the inanimate world, how much more so should one be careful to
display gratitude towards one's fellow human beings and towards the Creator.
R' Menachem Mendel, the Kotzker Rebbe, used to follow the Torah's
example. Whenever he needed to replace a worn pair of shoes, he would neatly
wrap up the old ones in newspaper before placing them in the trash. "How
can I", he would declare, "Simply toss away such a fine pair
of shoes that have served me so well these past years!?"
HaKores HaTov goes still further. Again we learn from our foremother
Leah after she gave birth to her fourth son. "And she said, this
time I will give thanks (odeh) to Hashem. Therefore she called his name
Yehudah, and she ceased to give birth further." (Genesis 29:35)
Here, the Chozeh of Lublin asked one of his famous questions.
If Leah expressed her gratitude to Hashem, why did she stop having
babies? It should be just the oppo. One would expect Hashem to grant
His answer is a foundation of Yiddishkeit. Even though Leah expressed
her thanks to Hashem, she gave thanks only for what she received
in the past, but she neglected to beseech Hashem concerning the
future. From here the Chozeh of Lublin taught, that a Jew needs to says,
"Baruch Hashem that you have helped me until now. May You continue
to help me in the future".
This is also expressed in the Nishmas prayer said on Shabbos
and Yom Tov mornings. "Until now Your mercies have helped
us, and Your kindnesses have not forsaken us; our G-d don't ever abandon
us!" (See another example in Mishna Brochos 9:7. When one
comes to a city he should recite two blessings upon entering and two upon
leaving, according to the opinion of Ben Azzai. When he arrives he should
thank Hashem for having arrived safely. Upon leaving he should beseech
Hashem to protect him on his future travels.)
The ultimate expression of this teaching is explained by the She'lah
HaKodesh. One should always pepper his speech with phrases like: "Baruch
Hashem" or "with the help of Hashem", "G-d
willing" etc. Training oneself to speak in such a manner will help
a person to always maintain a sense of gratitude to the Creator for all
that he has.
R' ZUSIA AND THE RAV
In the town of Anipoli there were two Rabbis,
Zusia the Chassid and the town Rav, a Misnagged.
R' Zusia was always happy despite the fact that he had nothing but troubles;
poverty and ill-health. The Rav on the other hand, despite his honorable
position in the community was always unhappy, depressed, bitter and angry.
He couldn't bear others, nor even himself.
One night, bitter and frustrated he went to ask R' Zusia for help. He
sneaked out of his house at an hour when nobody would see him and secretly
made his way to the hovel which R' Zusia called home. When he arrived the
lamps were still burning, so he knocked hesitantly. Almost immediately
R' Zusia appeared at the door with a smile and an invitation to enter.
"How is it that you are so happy and content and I am always angry
and cursing everybody", asked the bewildered Rav?
"Let me give you an example", offered R' Zusia. "Take
the wedding of R' Moshe's daughter. When Reb Moshe, the local philanthropist,
made a wedding for his daughter recently, he dispatched a messenger to
personally invite the special citizens of Anipoli. When the messenger came
to your house, you demanded to see the guest list. You saw that you were
14th on the list".
"'Chutzpah!', you shrieked, and decided that you would attend,
but come late. When you arrived, all the guests were sitting at the tables
already and eating the festive meal. When you arrived, there were no empty
places to be found."
"Soon, Reb Moshe the philanthropist saw you looking for a place
to sit. 'Rabbi', he called out, 'where have you been?' They brought you
to the head table, but there were no more empty places. They brought you
a chair, but you sat behind somebody else. You were furious, looking for
somebody to lash out at, but nobody was really paying any attention to
you. The waiter didn't even see you. By the time the host noticed that
you weren't eating, all the food was gone."
"R' Moshe went into the kitchen to find something, but it was not
a portion befitting the Rav of Anipoli. Everything had already been picked
through. By this time you were cursing the host and the waiters and the
guests and even the bride and groom themselves. When it came time for the
bentching (Grace after Meals) and the Sheva Brochos (seven blessing said
after the festive meals in the presence of the bride and groom), you had
been all but forgotten. You went home broken, angry and bitter, cursing
the Master of the World Himself."
"When the messenger came to the house of R' Zusia, (he always referred
to himself in the 3rd person), Zusia was taken aback. What a kind gesture!
Reb Moshe is inviting Zusia to the wedding of his daughter?! What has Zusia
ever done to deserve an invitation to their wedding?!
So Zusia went two hours early to the wedding. Zusia asked what he could
do to help set up. Zusia officiated at the ceremony. Zusia ate a full meal.
Zusia was honored with bentching and Zusia recited the Sheva
"You see", R' Zusia continued his explanation to the Rav of
Anipoli, "You wanted everything, but you ended up with nothing. Zusia
didn't ask for anything, but he got it all!"