Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 12 April 2014 / 12 Nisan 5774


by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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The Cry of a Child

And G-d said, “I have indeed seen the affliction of My people that is in Egypt and I have heard its outcry because of its taskmasters, for I have known of its suffering. I shall descend to rescue it….” (Exodus)

The exodus of the Jewish nation is celebrated each year, by telling over the story of how G-d rescued us from the hands of the wicked Egyptians. We are told of G-d’s great power, controlling the forces of nature, turning water to blood, and hail to fire. Showing our total devotion we followed Him into the dessert without the necessary provisions. At the Sea of Reeds G-d killed our pursuers by drowning them in the sea just as they drowned our children.

What suddenly changed for G-d to end our suffering? What caused Him to act just then? The Ramban explains that when the appointed time arrived for the Jews to be taken out of Egypt they lacked the necessary merit to leave. In fact, it is known that the Angels questioned G-d at the splitting of the Sea of Reeds saying, “Why are you saving the Jewish people and killing the Egyptians? Both of them are guilty of worshiping idols!” With such a severe sin as idol worship on our hands it is understood why G-d did not want to save us; for there can be no greater betrayal then to serve idols.

Thus, even though we were no longer required to serve the Egyptians, according to G-d’s attribute of strict judgment we would have remained there without change. For G-d to go out of His way and rescue us required added merit.

From where did we get this merit? The verse says, “I have heard its (the Jewish People’s) outcry.... I shall descend to rescue it.” We were saved in the merit of our prayers, for in turning to G-d amidst our suffering we showed our unbreakable faith in a loving G-d, despite the fact that we were left by that same G-d to suffer. Instead of questioning and resenting G-d’s treatment, we had faith, and as a result G-d overlooked our sins and we were freed from both our physical and spiritual bondage.

The story of Egypt is a timeless one which applies to every exile. Today, just as then, we are also guilty of turning away from G-d. But this does not mean that He stops loving us. When a child cries out a parent feels the pain and will do anything to help. In these times, just before we merit the final redemption, when we are so weak, we must strengthen our faith and cry out to the Merciful One to come and save us.

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