Food For the Soul
Seven of the ten plagues are described in the Parsha Va’eira. The purpose of these plagues was, as G-d told Moses: “So that you will be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I have made sport from Egypt, performing miraculous signs there.”
Pharaoh is identified with his stubborn boasts, “I do not know G-d,” and “the river is mine and I have fashioned it,” denying G-d’s influence in our world and replacing it with a belief in self and man’s power.
The fundamental purpose of the plagues was to negate this approach, to manifest G-dliness openly so that all could see, and in doing so, to break the pride of Pharaoh and his nation. G-d persisted in this endeavor until “Egypt [knew] that I am G-d,” and Pharaoh’s pride was crushed. He came to Moses in his nightclothes, entreating G-d’s mercy.
And the evidence was not for Pharaoh alone. The miracles of the exodus serve as testimony of G-d’s control of the natural order for subsequent generations. In Egypt, even Pharaoh had no choice but to acknowledge G-dliness. At other times, G-d’s influence may not be as evident, but it is always He who is ordering our world and our destiny.
Nature itself is no more than a recurring series of miracles. For is there a reason why the sun should rise or the grass should grow?
But beyond the natural order, there is a G-dly hand directing our lives. Nothing happens by chance. Instead, in a way in which only His infinite wisdom can fully comprehend, G-d is guiding our lives and working miracles on our behalf.
This is the message of the miracles of the plagues: to probe beneath the surface and become conscious of G-d’s involvement in our lives. The only difference between the plagues in Egypt and our present situation is the degree in which G-d’s hand is overtly manifest, but the presence – and the working – of that hand always remains the same.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe – Chabad.org
Shabbat Mevarchim HaChodesh
This Shabbat, 28 Tevet, represents the last Shabbat of the month of Tevet. The last Shabbat of every month is Shabbat Mevarchim HaChodesh, “the Shabbat that blesses the month.” On this Shabbat, a special prayer is recited which names the coming month, identifies the day (or days) of its Rosh Chodesh (“head of the month”) and beseeches G-d to “renew it… for life and for peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation.” According to Chassidic teaching, the “blessing of the month” evokes the flow of sustenance and spiritual energy for the coming month.
For insights and practices regarding Shabbat Mevarchim HaChodesh, visit Chabad.org
Mind Over Matter
Being in Egypt means looking at nature and seeing a set of laws that rule supreme—trapping man in its grip, enslaving him to his natural habits, temptations and shortcomings. The Torah tells us that we must remember the exodus from Egypt all the days of our life, for each and every day we are called upon to break free of our limitations, of the constraints that hold us back from being the person we want to be and from living the life we are capable of living. We are liberated from Egypt when looking at nature brings us to the recognition of the Creator, who gifts us of His infinity, allowing us to break free of the confines of the natural order and to create change in the world and within ourselves.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman
His Kingship Rules Over All
When the inherent and pervasive presence of the Aleph (the “Master of the Universe”) is revealed and manifested, this will remove all the concealing obstacles of the galut (exile) which screen and cover its true reality and intent. There will be a revelation of Divinity within the world and in all mundane categories, to the point that “Everything that has been made will know that You have made it… and every besouled being will declare that G-d, the G-d of Israel, is King, and that His Kingship rules over all” (Liturgy of Rosh Hashanah).
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Never Lose the Spirit
Imagine you have been working on the job for years and years. It is hard, manual labor and you are not simply tired but exhausted, demoralized, drained and frustrated. And then, one fine day, some new fellow on the floor stands up and promises a whole new world of equality, rewards and ultimate freedom. Do you believe him or are you beyond hope? Do you dare hold out for a better tomorrow and risk being devastated and cast into despair yet again or do you simply accept your fate and give up dreaming?
So it was with our ancestors in Egypt. They were slaving away all those years when a new face appeared and began making promises. Moses brings a message from G-d that they are about to be redeemed. There is a Promised Land ahead. All is not lost. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Jews’ response? And they did not listen to Moses out of shortness of breath and from the hard labor. One commentary explains that “shortness of breath” shouldn’t be understood only literally. The Hebrew for breath is ruach, which can also mean “spirit.” In other words, they weren’t able to heed Moses’ call not only from physical breathlessness, but because they lacked the spirit. Having suffered in bondage for so long, they no longer had the faith or hope to believe that freedom was still in the realm of the possible. It was simply beyond them. They had lost the spirit.
In the history of Egypt not a single slave had ever escaped. How could an entire nation ever walk free? Moses was a dreamer, they must have thought. It is just not realistic to hold out such high hopes only to have them dashed yet again. And so the people were utterly despondent and spiritless and, therefore, they could not hear, i.e. absorb, Moses’ message. It happens all too often. People become so set in their mediocrity that they give up hope of ever achieving the breakthrough. Marriages get stuck in the rut of routine and the tedious treadmill keeps rolling along until we lose even the desire to dream. And Israel’s people, even brave leaders, are so despondent from years of war, attrition and terror that they clutch at imaginary straws because, basically, if we are honest with ourselves, they have simply lost the resolve.
I have often quoted a wise proverb heard in the name of the legendary Chasid, Reb Mendel Futerfas. “If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. Money comes and money goes. If you lose your health, you’ve lost half. You are not the person you were before. But if you lose your resolve, you’ve lost it all.”
Moses brought new hope to a depressed, dreamless nation. He gave them back the spirit they had lost and eventually, through the miracles of G-d, the promise was fulfilled and the dream became destiny. To be out of breath is normal. To be out of spirit is something the Jewish People can never afford. May we never lose the spirit.
Rabbi Yossy Goldman