Torah Weekly - Parshat Va'era
Hashem tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt; however, the Jewish People do not listen. Hashem commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. Hashem punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh's obstinance. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.
"So Moshe spoke accordingly to Children of Israel; but they did not heed Moshe, because of shortness of breath and hard work." (6:9)
Everyone needs to work. Chicken doesn't grow out of dining-room tables. Our attitude to work, however, can be very revealing.
In Europe, before the war, they used to say "What do you do for a living?" Nowadays, we say "What are you?" This subtle change speaks volumes. What I do is not who I am. I may be in business, but I'm not a businessman. I may sweep the roads, but I'm not a roadsweeper. What I do doesn't define my essence. It doesn't define who I am.
The Jew defines himself in terms of his relationship with G-d. G-d created me for one reason only — to receive the ultimate goodness and pleasure. To be close to Him. That's who I am. Every Jew should think, "I am the centerpiece of this vast galactic ballet." Every star is wheeling in the sky for me. Every fish is blowing bubbles for me. Every stone is silent for me. I am the center of Creation.
But I'm not the be-all and end-all of creation. That's who G-d is.
We live in the Age of Man. The age in which Man sees himself as the center of the universe. Man is the idol-worship of the age. Twenty-first century man has written G-d out his world. Man is the center of all. Thus my status — what I do — really is who I am.
"So Moshe spoke accordingly to Children of Israel; but they did not heed Moshe, because of shortness of breath and hard work" (6:9)
The expression "shortness of breath" (kotzer ruach) can also be translated as "narrowness of spirit." The Jewish People in Egypt were steeped in idol worship. The ultimate idol is man himself. Pharaoh declared himself a god. Hard work can bring a person to appreciation of G-d's beneficence. Or it can bring him to think, "With my own power and the strength of my hand I did all this." Hard work can bring a person to a sense of self-esteem. Or it can fill him with self-importance. Hard work never killed anybody — but it can turn us into addicts. It can make us think we are the center of the universe.
The ultimate definition of a workaholic is someone who has confused what he does — with who he is.
Yeshayahu 66:1 - 23
After a week of achieving and "making things happen," Shabbat summons us to renew our ties to the Creator. With the cessation of creative activity we declare that it is G-d who created this beautiful world; it is G-d who "makes things happen."
The New Moon too is a call to renew our relationship with G-d, lest we become trapped in spiritual stagnation.
Yeshaya exhorts the Jewish people: They have desecrated the Temple with empty offerings, desecrated their prayers with lip-service. How many truly cared about G-d's word and served Him with all their heart? Yeshaya envisions the future time when all will unite to declare G-d's glory. At every New Moon and at every Shabbat they will prostrate themselves before G-d, in free-willed devotion.
Every week we have an opportunity to renew our connection. Every month we have an opportunity for spiritual elevation. Such opportunities can not be allowed to slip away. The Torah gives the framework for a life of spiritual elation. All we have to do is to seize the moment.
Selections from classical Torah sources
which express the special relationship between
the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael
The name of this settlement in the south of Eretz Yisrael comes from a passage in the prophecy of Yeshaya (35.1) describing the revival of the desert that will accompany the redemption of the Jewish People. It means "to blossom" and refers to the desolate Holy Land "blossoming like a rose." The nearby settlements of G'ilat, Ranen, Maslul and Pedium also took their names from words contained in that prophecy.
Tifrach is a charedi community famous for its outstanding yeshiva that attracts students from all of Israel and the world.
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Eli Ballon
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