Monday, January 23, 2017

Mussar Drosha: Shemos

Mussar Drosha: Shemos

Baruch Hashem, we have the privilege to begin a new Sefer of the Torah - Sefer Shemos.  It’s such an experience going through the Torah – such a gift!  And we need to try to begin each new Sefer with as much passion and enthusiasm as when we began the Torah – and we should know that each Sefer is like a new beginning.  With these thoughts in mind, let us, B’Ezras Hashem, begin: 


Towards the end of the last Sefer, we discussed the events that led up to the Egyptian slavery, and now we are going into the slavery itself.  


Now, the Exile and slavery must have been very hard, and we can but imagine (maybe!) it.

And actually, I want you to try to do just that:  Try to imagine how it was for the Jews in Mitzraim:  Each morning, having to wake up early - knowing that you must work extremely hard under terrible conditions - the burning sun of Egypt etc. - again that day.  


And then you must actually start with the back-breaking work, getting whipped or hit likely all the while.  But it doesn’t stop there - you must work like that essentially all day! And that is just a mild description - we don’t even know quite how hard it was!  It must have been very hard to get through that!!  So how did we?  


So, many of our Gedolim note that the Sofei Teivos of the first words of the parsha
 ‘ואלה שׁמוֹת בּני ישׂראל הבּאים(if you mix them up a bit) spell תּהלים.  And some say that this teaches us that the Jews were able to get through the hardships because they kept on to saying Tehillim - still holding on to Hashem.  Hashem was there with us, holding out a “Hand” - we just had to grab onto it!!


And, my dear friends; does this not apply to every hardship we might, Rachmana Litzlan, have in our lives?  Sometimes things get tough, may Hashem save us all, but He is always there with us and He is always stretching out His “Hand” for us to grab, as He was with us when we were in Mitzraim.  And if we can, with His Help, hold onto it (spiritually) – then we can get through even the toughest positions.  But the only way we are able to do that is because Hashem is always with us – even in the hardest positions – such as the slavery in Mitzraim. 


And this theme is actually taught to us later in this very parsha:  Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu (in Aliyah Revii) that he should tell the B’nei Yisroel that ‘I Will Be What I Will Be’ sent him.  And Rashi HaKadosh comments and quotes from Gemara Berachos (9b) which says ‘I will be” with them in this predicament “what I will be” with them in their subjugation by other kingdoms.


We are in the Galus of another kingdom and Hashem is still with us as He was in Mitzraim!  Through all these years He has stuck with us - even with all of our aveiros too!  Think about that…..


However, unfortunately and Rachmana Litzlan, we often don’t realize that He is with us and we feel very despondent.  This then leads to sadness, etc. (This feeling can come from many things).

But, what we must realize is that He is not just with our People as a whole - but with all of us individually!  No matter what is going in your life - a difficult test (in school, in life, you name it), the Yetzer Hara attacking you, Rachmana Litzlan, or anything - He is there with you!!  This is something very important to remember.  When we realize that Hashem is always with us, things don’t seem as dark at all (see the Tiferes Uziel zt”l on the opening verse of Parshas Vayigash).  We don’t feel alone in our pain anymore - and it brings happiness to our hearts!  Think about it:  One is always with you - holding your hand and walking with you, so to speak.


And this is perhaps one of the big lessons we can glean from the story of the slavery in Mitzraim:  If He was with us there - in the terrible, terrible, suffering and when we were on such a low spiritual level (as our Sages teach) - then certainly He is always with us in our lives!  We must remember this.


And before we finish, I would like to, B’Ezras Hashem, share with you an incredible, inspiring story that I saw that really illustrates our point. (The following is taken straight from  


‘There is a moving story about one such survivor. A religious Jew was traveling to Eretz Yisroel, and found himself seated in the airplane next to a secular Jew who spoke bitterly about the holocaust. “My parents, wife and children were all murdered,” he complained. “They were completely innocent. How could G-d allow such terrible things to happen?” He concluded that there could not possibly be a G-d if this is what happened to the world. The religious Jew tried to change his companion’s perception of the holocaust, but to no avail. After landing in Israel, they each went their separate ways.


The religious Jew was in Israel for the High Holidays. On Yom Kippur, during the short recess after Shacharis, he took a walk around the block of the shul. As he was walking, he noticed an obviously secular Jew walking on the other side of the street, carrying several packages. It pained him to see someone desecrate Yom Kippur. And then he suddenly recognized the person as his flight companion.


He ran across the street and greeted the non-religious Jew. “We are about to say Yizkor in shul,” he explained. “Won’t you do this much for the departed souls of your dear parents, wife and children? Won’t you come inside and say Yizkor in their memory?”


At first the non-religious person refused to hear of it, but it wasn’t long before he conceded. As he entered the shul, the friendly gabbai (sexton) welcomed him warmly and patiently helped him through the Yizkor prayer. He asked for the exact Hebrew names of the stranger’s martyred father, mother and wife. Then he asked him for the names of his children. Crying openly, the stranger said the name of his eldest son. The gabbai paled and asked him to repeat the name. The stranger repeated the name once more. The gabbai exclaimed: “That’s my full Hebrew name!”


The shul erupted in pandemonium. It turned out that the gabbai was a young child during the Holocaust. He managed to escape deportation and hid out in the woods until he finally reached a safe haven. After the holocaust, he came to Eretz Yisroel, thinking that he is the only surviving member of his family. After asking a few more questions, it became clear that the middle-aged secular Jew was none other than the gabbai’s father.


After witnessing the open Hand of Providence, the father turned around completely and became fully religious. He now firmly believed that there is a G-d who plans everything that transpires, although His Face is sometimes painfully hidden.’

Hashem was with us always and He is with us now.  Even in the darkest situations He is our Light.  That is for sure.  But the question is; are we with Him?  
I wish everyone a wonderful week!

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