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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira| 5771

Parashat Hashavuah: The Lesson for Moshe and Future Torah Learners

(Harav Shaul Yisraeli - from Siach Shaul, pg. 190-192)

Our parasha begins in the middle of a story, with the unfolding liberation in its early and not so fulfilling stages. After Paroh increased the pressure on the Israelites as a result of Moshe’s request for freedom, Moshe was as pained as the beaten Jewish taskmasters. Not only the conditions but the difficulty in understanding the people caused him such frustration that he questioned even Hashem.

Hashem’s response to Moshe is puzzling. He introduces Himself by the “new Name” of Hashem, the Name of mercy. But where was the mercy in these unbearable conditions? It is not, Heaven forbid, that Hashem is not able to deliver the people without additional pain! Apparently, it was not possible to do so without suffering, which was a necessary lesson for Bnei Yisrael at that formative time.

The midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Kohelet 968) says on the pasuk af my wisdom stood by me” that the Torah that he learned with af (hard work) is what brought him success. Learning Torah is not acquired through games and levity. Torah requires seriousness and concentration. So too, the transpiring of events at the time of the liberation, which formed the foundation, in many ways, of the Torah and our relationship with Hashem, could not be acquired without pain. “Fortunate is he whom Hashem afflicts, and from His Torah Hashem teaches him” (Tehillim 94:12).

If we look into the reason behind this idea we will find that the whole essence of Torah is man’s never-ending effort to, in all situations, elevate himself. Actually effort is important in all mitzvot. One gets reward not only for being in shul but in the number of steps one takes to get there (Sota 22a), even when there is a closer shul.

It is not that Judaism does not want one to enjoy the world. Rather, a full Torah lifestyle requires that one’s thought process reaches the next level, where the enjoyment is in the spiritual realm. The Torah knows that enjoyment in the physical and the spiritual realms do not go together in a manner that would allow one to make the physical world as an independent goal along with the goal of development in greatness in Torah.

This was the lesson for Moshe. Moshe had to know that his ability to lead the people would require preparedness to put up with the many difficulties the people would throw at him. He would have to “stick to his guns” when quarrelsome and scandal-hungry people tried to find fault in him when those faults did not exist (see Kiddushin 33b). Only by standing up to the burden were Moshe and his nation able to witness the Exodus, the splitting of the sea, and the giving of the Torah.


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