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Shabbat Parashat Shemot 5775

Ein Ayah: Appreciating Hardships

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 1:62)

Gemara: The Rabbis taught: Who wrote Megillat Ta’anit (the list of semi-holidays, celebrating salvations from various hardships)? It was Chanania and his group, who had warm feelings about the hardships.


Ein Ayah: Hashem’s Hand is always outstretched to sustain the nation close to Him. Therefore, there are major elements in the world that strengthen our ability to withstand hardships.

One of the things that sustain us is the love within all the members of the nation for Hashem’s Torah that is in our midst, for Hashem, and for His nation. This love stems from our physical and spiritual nature, as the sanctity of the spirit is attracted to the divine source from which it emanates and to the light of Hashem, Who formed a covenant with us. Wisdom supports the prospect of love existing between each individual member of the nation, the nation as an inseparable whole, and its Torah.

However, the difficult situation of exile destroys much of the goodness that is within the soul, and this threatens to darken the light of this love, which would cause weakness and the separation of individuals from each other. This happens when the individual does not realize how much he has to gain from the sanctity that dwells within the collective. Therefore, in the time of exile, it is important to have additional means to endear the collective on the individuals.

The same phenomenon that protects spiritual powers from destruction and from degeneration is one that providence already uses for individuals to appreciate those close to them. The phenomenon that women give birth with great pain and significant danger increases the natural love that a mother has for her child. This developed love helps give the mother the power to put up with the difficulties of raising the child, for which natural love and ethics would not have sufficed without the endearing power of the pain.

There is a similar phenomenon on a national level. The sanctity of the Torah and of belief in Hashem and the connection between all parts of the nation is worthy of great love. It is appropriate to put up with great difficulty in order to stay connected to these lofty matters. We need something to help us withstand the challenges of exile and not allow the great glory to be dulled or to be disheartened when seeing how other nations lose their status and become assimilated among stronger nations. Every lowly individual has to be able to see his own value and the critical importance of staying connected with the whole even when exile puts great strains upon him. That which gives the strength is actually the hardships that our venerable nation has experienced over its long history. “Many times have I been afflicted since my youth, shall Israel say” (Tehillim 129:1). The hardships we have overcome in order to keep the Torah, cling to a complete faith, and maintain the standing of the Nation of Israel, revive the love within our nation’s later generations. They will realize that the priceless value of wonderful sanctity and the crucial Torah allow us to survive to this day and for all eternity. “As the new skies and the new land stand, so will your offspring and your name stand” (see Yeshaya 66:22).

The affection that is awakened within the heart of the generations when they realize how difficult it was to reach this point combines with the great price paid to fulfill and preserve the Torah and increase spiritual vigor and deep-felt belief. That is why the Rabbis wrote Megillat Ta’anit, so that future generations would know the value gained by knowing the hardships. In that way, they showed warm feelings toward those hardships [and the fact that the nation was extricated from them].

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