Friday, January 27, 2017

Mussar Drosha: Va'eira

Mussar Drosha: Va'eira:

Baruch Hashem, we have the privilege to continue with the story of the Jews in Mitzraim - and Hashem taking us out.  Towards the end of last parsha, things got worse actually; but it was actually part of the Geulah, as well - and we must realize that. (The Mizrachi zt”l explains that it actually brought the Geulah faster!)  Even though things can get tough sometimes, Rachmana Litzlan, we must always remember that that too is part of a ‘Geulah’ for us (see Rabbeinu Bachya zt”l on the end of Parshas Shemos).  

But that is not the topic that I would like to discuss in this Dvar.  B’Ezras Hashem, I would like to talk about something different:  

The Sages tell us in the Midrash that we were redeemed from Mitzraim in the merit of three things:  We kept our Jewish clothing - and didn’t dress like the Mitzrim; we kept our Jewish names - and didn’t change to having Mitzri names; and we spoke Hebrew - and didn’t change to speaking Mitzri.  This means that we somewhat kept our Jewish identity and did not totally assimilate - which is just so important.  

And this is especially an important lesson for our times – as it is one of our big problems today:  Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita writes on this Midrash (Four Chassidic Masters; p. 99) “Even today, there is a misconception that Jews should not stand out as different.  Unfortunately, such ideas have resulted in the catastrophic assimilation of our times.” (See the Netziv zt”l in HaEmek Davar on last Parsha for one of the reasons of the slavery).

Hashem has set us apart as His People, and we are supposed to elevate ourselves and not, Chas V’Shalom, try to act like the Goyim (not to say that all of them - or even close - are bad, but we are still supposed to be different than them).

If a Jew doesn’t make Kiddush; the Goy will make Havdalahsaid the great HaRav Chaim of Volozhin zt”l, powerfully.  Meaning that if, Chas V’Shalom, a Jew does not elevate and sanctify (Kiddush) themselves and separate themselves from the ways of the Goyim, then Hashem will have to make the Goyim separate us from them (Havdalah) – sometimes in a way that won’t be so pleasant - so we do not, Chas V’Shalom, assimilate and join them. 

But; unfortunately, we all might have a little of this problem:  Even though we are Frum Jews, Baruch Hashem (may we continue in that way – the true way - forever, Amein vi’Amein), sometimes we might forget ourselves and act just like the Goyim do (without breaking the Commandments, of course, but perhaps not doing what we should be…).  We completely forget ourselves!  But what is a way to fix this?  How can we remember and not lose ourselves?  The way has been given to us:  Hashem has given us things to remind us and to help us maintain our Jewish identity - always.  

Such as Lashon HaKodesh, Jewish names, special clothing, etc. (The things which, when we kept them in Mitzraim, were the merit for our Redemption).  And when we keep distinctive Jewish things - that helps to remind us who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. We wear Tzitzis (as we have been commanded), we wear Yarmulkes, etc.  

These help to remind us of the truth always.  And I would like to, B’Ezras Hashem, share with you a beautiful story with you on this topic:  

A man once came, heartbroken, to the Belzer Rebbe - Rebbe Yehoshua Rokeach zt”l - crying uncontrollably.  Reb Yehoshua waited until the man was calmer and was able to tell his story.  The man told him that he had an only son whom he cherished and loved ever since the day he was born.  But, unfortunately, he had gotten mixed up with bad people and now he was engaged to a Goyishe girl!  He (the father) had been so upset that he had kicked his son out of his house.  

The man began to cry again and until a few moments later, couldn’t continue.  He asked the Rebbe whether it was the right thing or not to have kicked his son out of his home.  

The Rebbe replied that it was not the right thing, in fact, and that he should go and find him and bring him back.  

The man returned home and then went to find his son.  He found him in tattered clothing and looking disheveled.  He offered to take him home and the son accepted.  The father did not mention anything about the girl, though.  

Sometime later, the father told his son that he was going to visit the Belzer Rebbe and asked if he wanted to go with.  The son - being very grateful to his father - accepted this simple request.  The father and son talked a lot during the journey there - even about the girl and her family - the father suggesting that perhaps her family were bad people, but the son refused to rethink his decision and the father dropped the subject.  

Soon, the two reached Belz and were admitted to the Rebbe’s presence.  Reb Yehoshua zt”l spoke to the son at length until he felt that he had won over his confidence and then offered him a small Tallis Katan (pair of Tzitzis).  He asked him to wear it under his shirt at all times and told him that it would protect him. The son accepted the request; at least the Rebbe was not trying to dissuade him from marrying the girl he wanted! 

Soon, the father and son returned home.  The date of the son’s wedding was approaching and it was to be a lavish affair with lusty singing and rowdy dancing.  As the Rebbe had advised, the father attended as well.  The day finally arrived and the unhappy father sat alone at a small table heaped with Kosher food, but he had no appetite.  He was disgusted by the drunken Goyim there and wept inwardly to see his own son seated at the head of the table.  

The room filled with smoke and heat.  It was soon so oppressive that people began to take off their coats, etc.  The “Chasan” himself even began perspiring and took off his jacket - then even his shirt!  

At first, he didn’t realize why people were staring at him.  But when he looked down, however, he discovered that he was still wearing the Tzitzis that the Rebbe had given him!!  

“Hey, look!” one of the people cried out, pointing at him. “That’s Jew-clothing.  The groom is wearing a Jew-garment!  The groom is a Jew!”

The other guests took up the cry and angrily fell on the groom. “Why did you tell us you were a gentile like us?” they shouted. “How did you dare deceive us?!” The people attacked him and started to hit him.  He was unable to defend himself, but was able to, Baruch Hashem, flee to safety.  

When he was finally alone, he remembered what his father had said about the bride’s family possibly being evil - what he had denied - how true those words had been! 

The son returned to the father’s home – much wiser than before (the father, of course, returned from the wedding as well).  He became a sincere Baal Teshuva, justifying his father’s love and the Rebbe’s faith in him. (From Tales of Tzaddikim; Sefer Bamidbar, p. 101-104).

We see that the Jews were redeemed out of the merit of keeping their Jewish identity and maintaining certain Jewish values.  We must take this lesson and always remain true to our faith.  And if we were redeemed from Mitzraim in that merit - then certainly if we all try to maintain our Jewish identity always, we will be redeemed from this Galus as well.  May exactly this happen, Amein vi’Amein.  

I wish you and your family a wonderful Shabbos full of Kedusha.

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