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Rabbi's Corner

Taking Egypt out of the Jews . . .

In this week’s Torah portion we will read about the beginning of the end of Egypt. The bitter enslavement of the Jewish People will finally cease as G‑d punishes the Egyptian nation with the Ten Plagues: Blood, Frogs, Lice, etc.

The question our Sages raise is the following: If G‑d intended to punish the Egyptian people, could He have not done this in a more straight forward manner, i.e.: one plague, one epidemic? Why the need for these Ten creative plagues?

Our Sages answer: Yes, G‑d could have done this. And yes, one fleeting swoop from G‑d would have been power enough to punish the oppressors and take the Jewish People out of Egypt. However, the function and purpose of the ten plagues was not merely to take the Jewish People out of Egypt – it was to take Egypt out of the Jewish People.

Leaving Egypt was, as stated numerous times in the bible, a means to an end. The exodus was the prelude to the creation of the Jewish People which occurred at Mount Sinai. Thus, the method and way in which the redemption from Egypt occurred also served as a preparation for the birth of the Jewish nation. This then, is the reason for the various and colorful plagues. Each served as a tool through which the Jewish People weaned itself from the depravities and immoralities of Egyptian civilization and culture – bringing them to the recognition and appreciation of G‑d and His supernal will.

This short article cannot possibly detail the function and lessons of each of the ten plagues. I, however, encourage you to browse through our Parsha website which includes many article related to this topic (click here). May we very soon witness the final Exodus from this exile with the coming of the righteous Moshiach (Messiah) speedily in our days!

Shabbat Shalom,

The Kabbalah of the Burning Bush

 

We all have heard of the infamous burning bush. After all, the inaugural relationship between G‑d and Moshe takes place through a thorn bush that “was burning in the fire but was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). And it was at this awesome burning thorn bush that G‑d charged Moshe with the mission of redeeming the Jewish People.

What is the spiritual and psychological symbolism behind the vision of this burning bush? Why was this site chosen to begin molding of the Jewish nation?

"Man is a tree of the field," (Deuteronomy 20:19) states the Torah.

All humans are compared to trees and bushes. Just like trees and bushes, we humans contain hidden roots, motives and drives buried beneath our conscious self. Just like trees and bushes, we also possess a personality that is visibly displayed, each in a different from and shape.

Some of us can be compared to tall and splendorous trees, with strong trunks enveloped by branches, flowers and fruits. And some of us might be analogous to bushes, humble plants, lacking the stature and majesty commanded by a tree.

Some of us may even see ourselves as thorn-bushes, harboring unresolved tension and unsettled turmoil. Like a thorn, our struggles and conflicts are a source of constant irritation and frustration, as we may never feel content and complete within ourselves.

All of us ‘trees and bushes’ possess a fire burning within us; a yearning for meaning, love and wholesomeness. Just as the flame of a candle is forever licking the air, reaching upward toward heaven, so too each of us long to kiss heaven and touch the texture of eternity.

Yet for many of us ‘human trees’, the longing flame of our soul is satisfied and ultimately quenched by our sense of spiritual accomplishment and success. We might feel content with our spiritual achievements; complacent in our relationship with G‑d, and satisfied with the meaning and love we find in our lives.

We human thorn-bushes, on the other hand, experience a different fate. The thorns within us never allow us to become content with who we are, and we dream for a life of truth that always seems elusive. Thus our yearning flames are never quenched. We burn and burn and our fire never ceases. Since the ultimate peace we are searching for remains beyond us, and the reality and depth of G‑d always eludes us, our internal void is never filled, leaving us humbled and thirsty, ablaze with a flame and yearning that is never satisfied and quenched.

And it was through this site – the never ending burning thorn bush – that Moses was shown one of the fundamental truths of Judaism: More than anywhere else, G‑d is present in the flame of the thorn-bush. The prerequisite to Moshe's assuming the role of the eternal teacher of the people of Israel was his discovery that the deepest truth of G‑d is experienced in the very search and longing for Him. The moment one feels that "I have G‑d," he might have everything but G‑d.

And so, on this Shabbat, as we read the account of the enigmatic bush that never ceased to burn, let us keep our inner fires continuously ablaze. Let us never feel content with our current spiritual state of being. And as they say at this time of year: ‘let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!’

Shabbat Shalom,

What is 'Life'?

What is life? Why were we placed in this world? What is our purpose?

Did G‑d create the world in order that we be able to purchase a nice car? Or maybe the sum total of our existence ends with our ability to buy a bigger home and enjoy some time in Tahoe.

The opening word and title of this week’s Portion is “Vayechi” meaning “And he (Jacob) lived” – rather an inappropriate name, it would seem, for a portion which speaks almost entirely about the evens surrounding Jacob’s passing?!

The answer lies in the final words of Moses to his flock, the Jewish People in the final moments prior to his passing: “You who are connected to G‑d . . . are all alive today” (Deuteronomy 4:4). I.e. True life means: Being connected to the infinite, the eternal, to G‑d Almighty.

Our portion goes to great length in describing Jacob blessing his 12 sons. When Jacob sees that his children and grandchildren are steadfast in their observance of Torah, in their commitment to remain eternally bound to their father in heaven, he (Jacob) was alive; truly alive. Hence the opening word and title. Veyechi – And he Lived.

Let us spend a moment or two of everyday and ‘live it’. Let us create an oasis in time where we transcend our finite and limited existence and begin truly living and eternal life. Let’s do a Mitzva today!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom! 

Which Reality do we Perceive?

The story of Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers after decades of bitter separation is, no doubt, one of the most dramatic in the entire Torah. Having sold Joseph into slavery 22 years earlier, the brothers now stand face to face with the viceroy of Egypt, who unbeknownst to them is there long lost brother Joseph. The viceroy has accused Benjamin (his brother) of theft and threatened to keep him as his slave.

This week’s Torah portion opens as Judah (the brother who had initiated Joseph’s sale) approaches the viceroy of Egypt and beseeches for Benjamin’s release. The viceroy can no longer contain his emotions and cries, “I am Joseph your brother”.

Judah’s approaching Joseph can be viewed in three dimensions:

THE PERCEIVED REALITY – Judah was approaching the viceroy of Egypt, who was capable of deciding his future and that of his entire family.

THE REALITY – This viceroy of Egypt was none other than Joseph, Judah’s brother.

THE MYSTICAL REALITY – Judah approaching Joseph represents a Jew approaching G‑d in prayer.

These ‘realities’ are intertwined and all play a significant role in our live specifically when each one of us face obstacles and hurdles in our journey of life:

THE PERCEIVED REALITY is that we are slaves to our problems, we are subservient to them. At best, we live with them and try, when possible, to wiggle our way out – the way Judah felt.

THE REALITY is that we have the ability to rise above our challenges for they are merely tests from G‑d, solely created to strengthen us - they are really ‘our brother’. We, the Jewish People, are impervious to challenge and will rise above it.

How do we muster the courage and inner strength to lift ourselves from the perceived reality to ‘real’ reality?

Through THE MYSTICAL REALITY - by approaching G‑d through prayer. In prayer our inner bond with the Almighty is revealed, giving us the ability to rise above our challenges.

So the next time a problem overwhelms us, try the venue of pray and perceive reality.

Shabbat Shalom,

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