Torah Fax

Friday, January 14, 2005 - 4 Shevat, 5765

Torah Reading: Bo (Exodus 10:1 - 13:16)
Candle Lighting time: 4:34 PM
Shabbat ends: 5:38 PM
 
For a lengthy discussion of the 10 plagues and their meaning see The Doctor Is In I, II, III and IV
 
Top Priority
 
"'I' and not an angel, 'I' and not a messenger, but the Holy One, Blessed be He Himself" was the one to bring the tenth plague and liberate the Jews from Egypt. These words, taken from the Haggadah, describe the unique nature of G‑d's involvement in the tenth and final plague and in the subsequent Exodus from Egypt.
 
It is well established that the Torah is not merely a history book. Every story conveyed in the Torah - and each detail within those stories - carries deep meaning. These details and nuances can give direction to us in our personal path to spiritual growth.
 
In light of this, we may ask what lesson can be derived from G‑d's direct involvement in the Plague of the Firstborn? Had G‑d c hosen to liberate the Jews from Egypt through one of His angels, would that have diminished the significance of the Exodus? After all, an angel is no more than G‑d's messenger - an instrument to carry out His will. This may be compared to a woodchopper who uses an axe to split his logs. No one would credit the axe - and not the woodchopper - with preparing the firewood.  Similarly, G‑d's messengers, be they the angels who saved Lot from Sodom or the sun that helps the crops grow, are no more than instruments in G‑d's hand. Thus, even if G‑d would have chosen to liberate the Jews by way of an angel, the Exodus would still have been attributed to G‑d as the one who sent the angel to do the job - so why does the Haggadah tells us so emphatically that G‑d used no messengers to execute the last plague and the Exodus?
 
A fundamental principle in Judaism is the Mitzvah to emulate G‑d. When the Torah tells us something G‑d dif, it is actually challenging us to implement that G‑dly behavior in our own lives. As the Talmud tells us,  "G‑d visited the sick, (after Abraham was circumcised, G‑d appeared to him) so too do we have an obligation to visit the sick." By emulating G‑d, we connect with the G‑dly energy inside of us and are able to express that G‑dly power.
 
But, G‑d is also a Creator. How can humans emulate that aspect of G‑d? Isn't creation something that only an omnipotent G‑d can do?
 
The answer, based on our Sages, is that G‑d has given us the ability to be His partner in creation. By working to change the world all week and then resting on Shabbat, we become "partners to G‑d in Creation." But there is another aspect of G‑d that is seemingly even harder to emulate. G‑d is also a liberator. How can we as Jews be expected to emulate that aspect of G‑d? How do we liberate our fellow Jews from exile? Isn't that something only an omnipotent G‑d can do? How can we be asked to emulate G‑d and become liberators?
 
The answer lies in the saying of our sages that "one who saves one person is as if he had saved an entire universe." Thus, if we succeed in extricating one Jew from the state of alienation from G‑d, and bring him closer to Judaism; in other words, if we spiritually liberate even one Jew, it is as if we have liberated an entire world.
 
However, while one might appreciate the importance of attempting to liberate a fellow Jew, he or she can sometimes view this as
a less than vital task. A person may choose to invest his strongest efforts in what he considers to be the more important and sublime goals in life, such as Torah study and the observance of Mitzvot that are geared to one's personal development. When it comes to liberating others, this individual might feel that he could invest less talent, energy and time.
 
To dispel this notion that the process of liberation is less important than one's own self-development, the Torah tells us that G‑d was directly and personally involved in the process of the Exodus from Egypt. He did not "delegate" the responsibility to angels, because G‑d considers the liberation of the Jewish people from spiritual confinement as His highest priority.
 
We too, must emulate G‑d and invest our best and most in reaching "in" (as opposed to the popular, though incorrect, term used to describe educating our fellow Jews: "outreach") to every Jew to uncover their G‑dly spirit. This process of liberation cannot be delegated to others and cannot be relegated to a lower level of priority in our own lives.
 
Indeed, the liberation of the individual is an integral part of the process of the liberation of the entire Jewish people and the entire world. There is nothing in life that assumes greater importance than the process of liberating the whole world. This, we accomplish by every Mitzvah we perform, but particularly, when we endeavor to help another experience their own Exodus from Egypt.
 
Moshiach Matters
A person studying Torah or fulfilling a mitzva should be aware of the effect of his action. It should be clearly apparent that he is now sowing something that will lead to an ultimate sprouting — the coming of Moshiach. (Likutei Sichot vol. 22)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com
 
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