Prime Cause

“What I have wrought [aliyot] upon Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that you may know that I am the L-RD.” – Exodus 10:2

“The reason that G’d’s activities are referred to by a word which hints at עילה [connoting pretext] is that He is the prime Cause of everything which transpires. All His actions have been inspired by His original planning when He created the universe and man.” – R’ Bachya, sefaria.org

It is mentioned in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) that the staff of Moses was created, that is to say, that it was amongst ten things first and foremost in His mind, on the eve of the first Shabbat (Pirkei Avos 5:6). Thus, we learn of H’Shems initial intentions and foresight, when creating the world. Inasmuch that he foresaw the captivity and enslavement of B’nei Yisrael, He had already provided the remedy for the ailment (the cure for the sickness).

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Diminished by Sin, Renewed by Teshuvah

“No greenery remained on the trees or the grass of the field in the entire land of Egypt.” – Exodus 10:15

It is as if to say that Egypt was deprived of its finery. Later, the Egyptian people, who had developed a sense of respect toward the Children of Israel, gave them their silver and gold vessels, as well as fine garments; thus was Egypt depleted. This is metaphorically the effect of sin upon our lives, that the corruption within eventually takes on an outward appearance, diminishing our regality as beings created in the image of G-d. Additionally, the external manifestation of sin may appear in a way, and a measure, concomitant with the aveira (sin).

Consider that even though King David was forgiven for his transgression, he was still chastised as a measure of H’Shem’s attribute of justice. Lest we think that teshuvah is too easy of a way to wipe our sins clean, perhaps, like David, we are still chastised, yet, to a lesser degree than we would have been if we were obstinate to the point of not acknowledging our sins. One might say that this is an example of the dynamic interchange of mercy and justice, working in tandem with each other, to a greater or lesser degree; and, we hope that H’Shem will always sweeten the judgment against us, by way of showing His mercy toward us.

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Broken Spirit

motzei Shabbos: parasha Va’eira 5783

 “And Moshe spoke so unto the Bnei Yisroel; but they did not listen unto Moshe because of their kotzer ruach (shortness of spirit, broken spirit), and for avodah kesheh (cruel bondage).”  – Exodus 6:9

Moshe and Aaron approached Pharaoh, concerning the people’s welfare; however, Pharaoh only increased their workload. When Moshe appealed to H’Shem, saying, “why is it that Thou hast sent me?” (Exodus 5:22, JPS), he was disillusioned, because the Chlldren of Israel were now suffering even more, and the redemption seemed further away. Yet, H’Shem responded that Moshe would see the redemption, which would be “with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments” (Exodus 6:6, JPS). Yet, when he took this message back to the people, they were not able to hear the impending redemption as a reality, because they were despondent.

Literally, the Torah records that the people’s spirit was broken, as if they were without hope. This is exactly when H’Shem chose to act on their behalf, for the sake of their freedom; and, He commanded Moshe to return to Pharaoah, “that he let the children of Israel go out of his land” (Exodus 6:11, JPS). So, even though the people seemed to not be on board with this divine program that was about to be enacted on their behalf, thus began the intervention of G-d, on behalf of His people, to bring them out of bondage, in order to serve Him, according to His commandments that were given at Sinai.

This clearly shows the need for redemption from an external source, as opposed to anything that mankind can achieve for himself. We can only do so much to make an attempt to improve ourselves; once we have made an effort, we need G-d to meet us halfway. The Children of Israel had sunk to the 49th level impurity; upon realizing the depth of their descent, their hearts were made contrite by this realization; so, once they acknowledged their lowly condition, G-d acted on their behalf to redeem them.

 “The L-RD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as are of a contrite spirit.”

– Psalm 34:19, JPS 1917 Tanach

parasha Vayechi 5783

parasha Vayechi 5783

“For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD.” – Genesis 49:18

During Jacob’s prophetic review of the tribes, encapsulated in the blessings given to his twelve sons, his expectation is to gain a glimpse of the final redemption. He predicts that “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel” (Genesis 49:16). He foresees that Samson will descend from the tribe of Dan; yet, the victory of Samson is short lived; Samson is given his moment in the history of Israel, raised up to defend Israel against the Philistines. Yet, he is not the redeemer who will appear at the end of the age. Rather, as is written in Pirkei Avot, “every man has his hour.”

Upon realizing this, he cries out, “For Your salvation I wait O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18). Targum Yonaton paraphrases, “When Jakob saw Gideon bar Joash and Shimshon bar Manovach, who were established to be deliverers, he said, I expect not the salvation of Gideon, nor look I for the salvation of Shimshon; for their salvation will be the salvation of an hour; but for Thy salvation have I waited, and will look for, O L-rd; for Thy salvation is the salvation of eternity” (Targum Jonathan on Genesis 49:18; sefaria.org).

Why would Jacob be concerned about the final redemption, when he prophetically knew of the impending descent of his descendants into the abyss of Egypt, and their subsequent slavery? Shouldn’t his immediate concern have been in regard to the first redeemer, who would bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Yet, he himself said, before blessing his children, “‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the end of days” (Genesis 49:1).

Jacob’s prime concern was not for a limited historical perspective, concerning only the next five hundred years, nor even the next two thousand years. His ultimate concern was for the eternal salvation of Israel; his vision spanned from the nation, that would arise from his seventy-member family in Egypt, all the way until the “end of days,” when the Final deliverance of that nation would be at hand. “For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18).

Blessing of Preservation

1st Aliyah parasha Vayechi

5783 – blessing of preservation

Both Manasseh and Ephraim both grew up in the royal household of Egypt. Yaakov, their grandfather, who is partially blind, asks who they are, when Jospeh brings them to him. On a deeper leve, his question may be construed as an inquiry into their character. Are their moral concomitant with the legacy of Abraham? Have they remained in their integrity as the sons of the righteous Joseph, who surely instructed them properly. Despite the surrounding idolatrous environment, are there adherents to the belief in the G-d of Israel? The answer to all of the above is yes, inasmuch that Yaakov’s blessing was for the sake of preservation, that they continue on the derech.

This blessing is performed every Friday evening when parents bless their sons. Implicitly, this blessing is meant to be a safeguard against undue influence from the less than ideal mores of society that are opposed to living a righteous life. Something we all face, in terms of this type of influence, the moreso, depending upon how much interaction we have with outside influences.

Peer pressure, while growing up, especially for those of us who have grown up in the secular world; and, other types of pressure today as adults at work, in social spheres, and at the hands of the misguided social justice warriors who use intimidation and condemnation as their means to compel or cancel others, who do not follow the narrative norm. Yet, Israel is a nation set apart from the nations.

parasha Mikeitz – 3rd aliyah

daily Torah reading: parasha Mikeitz 5783 -3rd aliyah

Shalom Aleichem: The weekly reading of the Torah is divided into seven portions; each of these is called an “aliyah.” Tradition teaches that when we study the aliyah on its designated day, a light from H’Shem is bestowed upon us. Light represents wisdom. May we learn in the light of H’Shem’s wisdom, as is written, “Enlighten my eyes to the wondrous ways of your Torah” (Psalms 119:18).

parasha Vayeishev 5783

parasha Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1 – 40:23) 5783

Joseph trials paved the way toward the preservation of his entire family, seventy people who came down to Egypt for provisions during the famine, and remained, when Joseph provided residential status for them in the land of Goshen.

Yet, his nisyanos (trials) were meant to refine his character, as mentioned, “He sent a man before them; Joseph was sold for a servant; His feet they hurt with fetters, his person was laid in iron; Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of HaShem tested him” (Psalms 105:17-19).