BeShalach

Torah Fax
Friday, January 17, 2003 - 14 Shevat, 5763

Torah Reading:  Beshalach (Exodus 13:17 - 17:16)
Candle Lighting Time: 4:36 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:41 PM
Shabbat Shirah - Tu BiShevat

The Doctor Is In III

In the last two weeks of Torah Fax, the Ten Plagues were characterized not simply as a harsh punishment for the Egyptian oppression of the Israelites, but also as a ten-step therapy that shatters the obstacles to spiritual growth. We also stated that these ten steps were a preparation for the Ten Commandments that the Israelites received at Sinai seven weeks after their Exodus from Egypt. The first six plagues were then discussed in light of the therapy aspect they represented.

This week we will continue with the next plague of barad-hail. However, a brief summary of the last six plagues is in order. One must first destroy all the icons (first two plagues of blood and frogs). One must then recognize the need to make small and incremental changes (the third plague of lice), while appreciating how special each person is, both their G‑dly soul and even their animal soul (the fourth and fifth plagues of the mixture of animals and pestilence, respectively). At that point we are ready to destroy the Egyptian Weltanschauung that has come to define us (the sixth plague of boils).

The seventh plague of barad-hail, which consisted of both fire and water, symbolizes the twin forces of destruction: fiery passion and icy indifference. The Torah relates that those people and animals who were outside were all destroyed. Those who went inside and brought their animals with them were spared. Translated into terms of human growth and development, this means that it is crucial that we go "inside." In Talmudic parlance the "outside" is referred to as reshut harabim, "the domain of the many" while the "inside" is characterized as reshut hayachid, "the exclusive (private) domain."

To rebuild ones personality in the proper mold one must take all of his or her ideas, goals and life's experience and bring them "inside," into a world that is dominated by one overarching, G‑dly objective. This does not mean that we cannot be multifaceted. On the contrary, this seventh step for self-improvement and spiritual development urges us to take all of our multifaceted talents, ideas etc. and have them reflect a unified purpose.

This plague thus parallels the Seventh Commandment, "Do not commit adultery." Committing adultery in the spiritual realm is to be wed to more than one ideal. The plague of hail that forces us to take ourselves and our animals inside an exclusive domain prevents us from being wed to different ideologies and ideals that proliferate "outside."

Now that we've progressed to the point where we have destroyed the icons, recognize our potential for growth, eliminated the Egyptian Weltanschauung and have taken all of our diversified areas of expression "inside," there is still a need to apply the eighth plague of arbeh-locust to our quest for spiritual development.

The plague of locust destroyed the crops and guaranteed a famine. Furthermore, the Torah describes the effects of the plague in terms of how they covered the land to the extent that "they could not see the eye of the land."

What is meant by the "eye of the land?" The "eye" represents the way we look at things. There are generally two different perspectives we have towards life. One is the perspective that is the natural outgrowth of the "land," i.e., the day-to-day exigencies of life. And then there is the perspective that comes from wisdom, specifically Divine wisdom that is embodied in the Torah that sees things from "above."

One might think that it suffices to have the right direction in life (provided for by the seventh plague that directs us to focus inward, to the domain of one). This plague informs us that one must also be imbued with the knowledge and perspective provided by Torah study. Thus, the plague of locust covered up the earthy perspective and created a sense of hunger about which the prophet stated: "They will be hungry not for bread, but for the word of G‑d."  In Biblical parlance, bread and food are metaphors for Torah knowledge that must be studied and digested. One must always strive to learn more with "hunger," just as if he had not eaten anything. To grow, one must have a philosophy of life that comes from Torah.

This parallels the next and eighth Commandment, prohibiting stealing. To steal means to take an article from its proper domain and bring it to a place where it does not belong. When we use the "eye of the land" instead of the perspective of Torah that comes from Torah study, we are placing ourselves in the "wrong domain," viewing life from an "earthbound," materialistic perspective that can stifle our spiritual growth.

We are living in unique times. Countless numbers of Jews are demonstrating a tremendous thirst for the knowledge of Torah making the foregoing Biblical prophecy a reality. It is high time that we see the fulfillment of the other prophecies that announce the coming of Moshiach and the complete Redemption that will usher in an age when the "world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea." At that time the prophet predicts we will all see "eye to eye" with G‑d. Indeed, "All flesh will see," even the earthy level of flesh shall be endowed with the G‑d's unique perspective.

Moshiach Matters

One of the characteristics of Moshiach is that he will be a "poor person, riding on a donkey" (Zachariah 9:9). This implies that even those that laughed at Moshiach and didnt believe in his coming will be atoned for by Moshiach and (instead of being punished and destroyed....) they will be redeemed together with everyone else... (Pesikta on the above verse)

Moshiach - Its a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

© 2001- 2005 Chabad of the West Side