Food For the Soul
The dilemma of tolerance
We keep hearing about tolerance. Be accepting of other people, of differences. Diverse cultures need to find ways of coexisting on a planet that keeps getting smaller. But there are times when too much tolerance can be detrimental. Like when the Jews were slaves in Egypt.
“And I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt” is the promise the Almighty told Moses to pass on to the Jewish people in the Parsha Va’era. One of my holy ancestors, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Gur (widely known by his work Chiddushei HaRim), once re-interpreted the Hebrew word for “burdens” – sivlos – to mean patience (as in savlanut in modern Israeli Hebrew today).
What he meant was that before the Children of Israel could be freed from Pharaoh, G_d had to first free them of their own inner bondage. Years of slavery and drudgery had left the Israelites so oppressed and so hopeless that they had sunk into a terrible tolerance, accepting their situation as final and unalterable. Freedom was unimaginable to them.
Some of us are too tolerant of intolerable situations and so long-suffering that we ourselves become insufferable. Before G-d can take us out of our personal “Egypts” we need to banish the slave mentality from our own headspace. In order to become truly free, we must first remove the shackles of servitude from our own minds. We must stop being so patient and accepting of all that is oppressive in our lives – whether it be slavery, exile, discrimination, anti-Semitism or mediocrity in general. We can become masters of our own destinies if we want to. But the first step on the road to our own personal exodus is to lower our threshold for tolerance and break out of the prison of patience.
From an article from Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson
This Shabbat (28 Tevet) marks the birth of the Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson (1879 (O.S.) – 1964), mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Speaking on the anniversary of her passing the Rebbe would often point out that the initial letters of the three mitzvahs especially entrusted to women –challah, niddah and hadlakat neirot –correspond to the letters of his mother’s name, “Chana.” In her memory, he would encourage all women and girls to strengthen their commitment to these mitzvoth, and to Torah observance in general.
Visit Chabad.org for the biography of Rebbetzin Chana, along with vignettes and videos of her life and legacy.
Mind Over Matter
At every moment, in each thing, a miracle occurs far transcendent of even the splitting of the Red Sea: Existence is renewed out of the void, and the natural order is sustained where there should be chaos.
Indeed, it is not the miracle that is wondrous, but the natural order. Does anyone have a good reason why gravity should behave today the way it behaved yesterday?
Does anyone have a good reason why there should be anything at all?
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
The messianic age
“I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, I shall rescue you from their service, I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you to Myself for a people… And I shall bring you to the land…” Va’eira 6:6-8.
The Messianic redemption, including its highest stage, is inherent already, even now indeed, ever since the exodus, except that it still needs to become manifest in our physical reality. Consciousness and realization of this fact make it so much easier to overcome all and any impediments and obstructions, in this world in general, in the era of the Galut (exile) in particular, and especially so nowadays, at the very end of the Galut, when we are on the threshold of the Messianic age and Moshiach is about to come.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
The prophetic experience
Every once in a while, my children ask me to help them with one of the many puzzles in the cupboard. The usual routine has us sit down on the floor where I examine the shape, colour and picture fragment of a puzzle piece to determine where it belongs. Invariably, my little daughter will grab the piece from my hand and place it exactly where it is meant to go, leaving me to conclude that it was my company she desired more than my skills.
The reason she is so much better at it than I am is that she knows the entire picture. When she looks at a puzzle piece, she visualizes the complete puzzle and knows exactly where that fragment fits in. I must contend myself with examining the piece and deducing from it what the surrounding pieces must look like. In other words, her knowledge flows from the picture to the fragment while my knowledge flows from the fragment to the picture. Where I see incomplete images, she sees portions of a perfect picture.
This was precisely the difference between Moses and the many prophets who followed him. Moses was familiar with the divine master plan and saw each prophecy within the context of that plan. Later prophets struggled to understand the details of what they were given and from them, they attempted to deduce the wider implications of the master plan. Why was Moses accorded this distinction? The Torah informs us that Moses was not only the greatest prophet but also the most humble man on earth. These two qualities are interconnected. Moses did not view himself as a separate entity from G‑d; he was completely detached from himself with no sense of independent ego. His entire consciousness was absorbed within G-d.
Pious as they were, the later prophets did not see themselves this way. They strove mightily to achieve full communion with G‑d but try as they might, they could not reach Moses’ level. In the end, they and G‑d remained, ostensibly, separate entities. G‑d was the speaker and they were the listeners. Because Moses was, also in his own consciousness, not an entity separate from G‑d, he was never overwhelmed by prophecy. He could easily relate to the words G‑d spoke to him and understand both the prophecies themselves and their wider context. Prophesying was natural to Moshe for he and his prophecy were fully one.
The later prophet was not fully one with his prophecy; prophecy came to him from a place beyond himself. Where Moses saw a perfect portion of a greater image, the later prophet saw an incomplete fragment and struggled to make sense of it. Later prophets transmitted their prophecy in their own words, but Moses’ prophecy would become an instant “live feed” through which G‑d’s words were broadcast to the Jewish people. As our sages have said, “the Shechinah (Divine Presence) spoke from Moses’ throat.”
It was not always this way for Moses. When he first started, he also struggled to understand his prophetic experiences. Moses’ defining moment came with the most enigmatic of all his prophecies, which appears in the end of last week’s Parsha, Shemot. G‑d instructed Moses to demand that Pharaoh set the Israelites free. In response, Pharaoh defiantly increased the pressure on the people by refusing to provide building supplies yet demanding the same work quotas as before. Moses, yet unschooled in matters of the divine plan, couldn’t accept this development and turn in anger to G‑d, “Why have you harmed your people?” Moses was saying that he couldn’t understand the logic of his mission. G‑d’s seemingly unsatisfactory response is found at the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Va’era. “I am G‑d. I have revealed myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and have not shown them my intimate name.” How does this response satisfy Moses’ heart-rending demand? G‑d was telling Moses that he would now be permitted to see what no prophet ever would: G‑d’s essence. From here on Moses could no longer receive his prophecy as a separate entity, outside from G‑d. He would now become fully absorbed within the divine.
Once he transferred from a self-based entity to a G‑d-based perspective, Moses became a conduit for divine thought and was made privy to the master plan. He could now see the context of every detail and understand how it fits the divine master plan.
Like my daughter who knows her puzzle, Moses would now know the full scope of G‑d’s plan. Now he would clearly understand the reason for the harm his mission wrought. He now understood that in manipulating Pharaoh to issue this cruel decree, G‑d sealed Egypt’s fate and triggered the onset of the Ten Plagues.
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow