Plague after plague pummeled Egypt, yet the heart of Pharaoh remained hardened and unchanged. Despite, his recalcitrance, God sends Moshe to warn Pharaoh and his advisers before each plague, giving them an opportunity to repent and avoid any further suffering.
“For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will incite against you and against your servants and against your people and in your houses a mixture of noxious creatures, and the houses of Egypt will be filled with the mixture of noxious creatures, as well as the land upon which they are. And I will separate on that day the land of Goshen, upon which My people stand, that there will be no mixture of noxious creatures there, in order that you know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. And I will make a distinction between My people and your people; this sign will come about tomorrow.” (Shemos 9:17-19)
It is in these verses that Moshe warns of the impending plague of arov (wild animals). Moshe says, “v’samti fedus beyn ami l’beyn amecha, machar yihiyeh ha’os ha’zeh, (And I will make a distinction between My people and your people; this sign will come about tomorrow).” On a simple level, Moshe is explaining that wild animals will overrun Egypt but will not enter in the Jewish city of Goshen. The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Avraham Simcha of Baranov provides an incredible insight:
V’samti fedus beyn ami l’beyn amecha, And I will make a distinction between My people and your people – what is the major distinction between the Jewish people and the other nations? Or more specifically, what is the most unique characteristic of our people?
Machar yihiyeh ha’os ha’zeh, this sign will come about tomorrow – the power of belief in tomorrow.
When the Jew suffers and faces adversity he does not lose his footing and resolve. When we encounter tragedy and pain we maintain our composure and remain connected to our life mission. Why? We believe in tomorrow. We know that no matter how difficult today may be, Hashem is by our side and there will be a tomorrow. We will make it through the challenges. We will weather the storms. We will fight our way out of today and with the help of God, make it to see tomorrow. We don’t delude ourselves into thinking that tomorrow will be easy, but the belief in tomorrow allows us to avoid getting swallowed up by the challenges of today. This is the strength of the Jew, this is the koach of our people.
Each of us contends with life challenges. For some it is relationships, for others it is health, for some it is finances and for others it may be all of the above. At times our challenges seem so enormous that they block out the light and we feel lost in the darkness of our circumstances. In those moments, let us say the words, machar yihiyeh ha’os ha’zeh, (tomorrow is the sign that I will succeed). Sometimes, all we need to do is make it through today and reach tomorrow. The knowledge that we can get from the difficulties of today to the unrealized potential of tomorrow gives us the necessary burst of strength and hope.
We spend much of our lives trying to provide the very best for ourselves and for our children both physically and spiritually. It is important to be cognizant of the atmosphere that we surround ourselves and our families in and how it influences us. Rabbi Silber shares a powerful insight on holiness from this week’s Parsha.
The first encounter did not go as planned. In last week’s Parsha, Moshe and Aharon told Pharaoh to release the Jewish people. Pharaoh, incensed that Moshe and Aharon would question his absolute authority and distract his slave work force with dreams of emancipation and freedom, responds with two simple words, “Tichbad ha’avoda, let the work become more intense.” The daily quota of bricks was increased and the Jewish slaves were required to forage for the raw materials to construct them.
In this week’s Parsha, Moshe tries to lift the spirits of the people and once again stoke the fires of optimism and hope. “Therefore, say to the children of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you, and you will know that I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the Lord (Exodus 6:6-8).’ ”
We would have expected the Jews to feel the first tingle of freedom, the optimism of emancipation, the hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; to rally around Moshe, hoist him on their shoulders and begin to plan for a beautiful future. But that is not what happened. Instead the verse says, “Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moses because of [their] shortness of breath and because of [their] hard labor (Exodus 6:9).” Unexpectedly unresponsive. What happened? How are we to understand the reaction of our ancestors to this beautiful message of hope and salvation?
The Meshech Chochma (Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, 1843-1926) explains that they were listening and attentive to every word until Moshe began to speak about the Land of Israel. When Moshe said the words, “I will bring you to the land …. And I will give it to you as a heritage,” they tuned out. Why? “Mi’Kotzer Ruach U’meyavoda Kasha, from shortness of breath and hard labor. For it is the way of those who are suffering to only want to hear that their suffering will end. But they cannot absorb or internalize a message of future success and salvation.” When a person is in the midst of difficult times, the most they can imagine is the alleviation of their present pain. If you tell a person dealing with crisis and conflict, that one day everything will be amazing, miraculous and beyond imagination – they will not have the emotional bandwidth to internalize this information. When Moshe tells the people that God is going to take them out of Egypt and redeem them from their suffering – the people hear and eagerly anticipate this reality. But when Moshe then says, “and God will take you to the Land of Israel and you will be an autonomous successful nation” – they tune out. Not because they don’t want to believe – but because they can’t. They were so overwhelmed by the enormity of their difficult circumstances that they could not see beyond the removal of their present pain.
The Maggid, Rav Nachum of Chernobyl (1770-1837) once stayed at the inn of a simple Jew. As was his practice, Rav Nachum awoke at midnight to recite Tikun Chatzos (the prayer to mourn for the destruction of the Temple). Rav Nachum lost himself in prayer and began to cry over the ongoing suffering of our people. The inn-keeper quickly ran to Rav Nachum’s room to see if everything was alright. “Rebbe, I heard you crying, is something wrong?” Rav Nachum responded, “I was crying over the destruction of the Temple.” “Rebbe, I am not familiar with the Temple or its destruction,” said the simple inn-keeper. Rav Nachum then proceeded to explain to the inn-keeper about the Bais HaMikdash and all it meant to our people. After concluding his explanation, Rav Nachum said, “My dear brother, don’t despair, Moshiach will come soon and we will rebuild the Temple. But tell me when Moshiach comes, will you be ready to travel the land of Israel?” The inn-keeper responded, “Rebbe, I must ask my wife.” He returned a few minutes later. “Rebbe, my wife said that we can’t ascend to the Land of Israel when the Moshiach arrives as we have cows, chickens and horses and we must look after them.” The Rebbe would not give up. “But there is so much anti-Semitism, the Tartars, the Cossacks – every day there is someone else who wants to kill us. Forget about the animals and promise me that when Moshiach comes you will ascend with him to the Land of our Forefathers”. “Rebbe, I understand your words – let me go discuss it with my wife.” The inn-keeper returned a few minutes later, “Rebbe we discussed it and my wife said that you should pray that the Tartars and Cossacks should be taken to Israel and we will live here in peace with our livestock!”
There are times when we become so embedded in our present that we can’t see a future. Often, we are so blinded by our current circumstances that we can’t see beyond them, even though beautiful blessing is within reach. This lack of vision can be the result of feeling overwhelmed by the difficulties and challenges of life. But it can also be the result of being too busy with the “Livestock” of everyday life. We each have a destiny and are here in this world to do something meaningful and important. If we are encountering difficult circumstances, we must constantly remind ourselves that it will be alright. Even if we are overwhelmed by the details and responsibilities of life we must remind ourselves that we each have a beautiful destiny which needs to be actualized. Even if we are “short of breath” we must find the strength to look beyond our present into a beautiful future.
Previously recorded on January 9, 2018
The Ribono Shel Olam gives over the 4 terms of redemption to Moshe to be brought back to the Jewish people. One of the terms is v’hotzei eschem mitachas sivlos mitrayim. Rebbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk explains the meaning of sivlos mitzrayim. He says that it comes from the word savlanut (patience). Moshe is teaching klal yisroel a message of change. They have become too accustomed to their current circumstances. Change can only come with a new and fresh outlook, with a willingness to rise above the status-quo and compromised circumstances. G-d has granted them an infusion of spirit and strength to break through the shackles of servitude and that will allow them to experience personal and national redemption.