Thursday, January 26, 2017

Action Is The Main Thing

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh
Audio Version By Rabbi Sholem Perl
Print Version
All Vaeira Dvar Torahs
The Haftora for parshas Vaeira has two prophecies from our prophet Yechezkel (Ezekiel), plus two verses from a previous prophecy.

The first prophecy is about the destruction of Egypt. Hashem says that He will lay waste to Egypt, it will be uninhabited for forty years, and then they will return, but Egypt will never be a superpower again.

Hashem gives a reason for the downfall of Egypt. Because Egypt didn't keep their word, and come to Israel's aid when they needed it most. They were a "prop of reeds," meaning, that when Israel needed to lean on Egypt, when they were being attacked by Sennacherib, and later by Nebuchadnezzar, Egypt folded as a prop made of weak reeds, and didn't come to Israel's aid.

But then, a few verses later He gives what seems to be a totally different reason. Because of Pharaoh's arrogance and denial of Hashem's providence, as he said, "The river is mine, and I made it."

The prophecy of the destruction of Egypt fits in with the message of parshas Vaeira, which tells of the devastating plagues that Hashem brought on Egypt. It even was for similar reasons. First, for the suffering they wrought on the Jewish people. And second, that Pharaoh be humbled from arrogance and denial of Hashem, as he said, "Who is Hashem, that I should listen to his voice," and come to realize that Hashem is G-d. This attitude was common by all the Egyptians, as we see from the reason Hashem gave Moshe for bringing the plagues, "And Egypt will know that I Am Hashem."

What connection is there between denial of Hashem because of arrogance and treating the Jewish people badly?

The question here itself is the answer. When a person is arrogant, his ego is so great, that there is no room for G-d, let alone another person so he treats others badly. (As we have seen just recently, how so many leaders of countries turned their backs on Israel, by means of a UN resolution, claiming that the Jewish people have no connection to their holy sites, in denial of G-d, His Torah and historical facts.)

The second prophecy in the Haftora, is about Nebuchadrezzar (another name for Nebuchadnezzar). Hashem says that He will give Egypt into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, and his army will enjoy the spoils, as a reward for capturing the city of Tzor (Tyre). Because they put so much effort into the siege of Tzor, but aside for its capture, the soldiers came away with nothing. All this,  because "The action which he carried out," was what Hashem wanted to be done.

The Haftora is meant to resemble the parsha, and bring out its theme. The first prophecy about the destruction of Egypt fits in nicely as explained earlier. But how does the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar's reward express the message of the parsha? True his reward was the taking of Egypt, but that is merely a detail, and what more, our parsha doesn't mention anything about another empire conquering Egypt.

If we take a closer look at our parsha, it becomes clear. The parsha opens with Moshe's complaint to Hashem. Moshe did what Hashem asked him to do, he went to Pharaoh, and asked him to allow the Jewish people to go and serve Hashem. And ever since then, the servitude only got worse. So he asked Hashem, "Why did You make things worse for this nation?"

Hashem answers, "I also heard the groaning of the Children of Israel, that the Egyptians are enslaving them.... Therefore tell the Children of Israel I Am Hashem, and I will take you out... I will save you... I will redeem you... I will take you... And I will bring you to the land..."

how does this answer the question? He already heard their groaning before Pharaoh made things worse, why didn't Hashem save them then?

We must conclude that the harsh servitude was somehow necessary, and that it needed to get even worse before Hashem could save them. What could possibly be the reason for this?

The reason for our descent to Egypt, was for us to receive the Torah. In order for the Torah to come down into the physical world, two things had to happen. First, we needed to become vessels to receive the Torah. The main idea of the Torah is to do Hashem's will, and to do that, our will had to be completely nullified, and that was done through the servitude in Egypt. This last blow, making it even harder for them, completed the process, now we were ready.

Second, just as it was necessary for the Jewish people to be prepared for receiving the Torah, so too, the world had to be prepared. Being that Egypt was the super power that ruled the world, they needed to recognize Hashem. As mentioned above, the Egyptian attitude was one of arrogance and denial of Hashem. This attitude needed to be broken for the Torah to be given, because the Torah is about the nullification of our will to do Hashem's will. Therefore, Hashem sent the plagues to break Egypt and it worked, as Pharaoh said at the end of the parsha, "Hashem is the Righteous One, and me and my nation are the wicked ones."

So the theme of the parsha, is getting ready to receive the Torah. And our main goal is that through our actions, doing the mitzvahs, we become connected to the One Who commanded us to do them, Hashem.

Now we can understand how the second prophecy aligns with the message of the parsha. Nebuchadnezzar did just that, he did what Hashem wanted, and he was rewarded for that.

You may be wondering. Tzor was a port city on the Mediterranean, and it was also along the road to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to capture Tzor for his own selfish reasons, because he wanted to rule the world, and Tzor was a strategic asset. Even the verse says that he was being given Egypt, merely for "The action which he carried out." Which implies that it just was something he did, not that he did it for Hashem. So why is he being rewarded?

This is a lesson to us here, is that the most important thing is the action, to do what Hashem wants, and even when the intentions are not that perfect, the reward is deserved.

This is in line with the Baal Shem Tov's teaching, that we should love every Jew, even those that are at the ends of the earth, and who you have never seen. Because every Jewish person has done many good deeds, as our sages tell us, "They are full of mitzvahs like a pomegranate (is filled with seeds)." Every good deed has an effect on the whole world, as the Rambam says with regards to someone who does a mitzvah "He tips himself and the whole world to the side of merit and causes for himself and for them redemption and salvation." So it turns out, that we each receive redemption and salvation from every Jewish person, even those we never met.

Now that I am unable to do things, I see how special it is. I used to do so much, and from all the things I used to do, I miss helping people the most. There is nothing better than being there for others. At least I am able to lift others spirits with my smile, my heart and through these Dvar Torahs. For these things I am grateful.

May we merit to see the ultimate transformation of the world with the coming of Moshiach. When we will see how it was our actions, mitzvahs and good deeds, that brought salvation and redemption. May it happen soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment