This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Va’era is being sponsored by Binyamin and Tracy Skriloff of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for Refuah Shleima for Binyamin’s Mother Chana Bat Sarah. To Mishpochat Skriloff, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
This author generally writes these vorts weeks in advance of the Shabbos Torah leyning. So as this Parshat HaShevua for Va’era is being composed, it has been a year, to this very night, 19 Kislev (Yud Tess Kislev: Chassidic New Year held by Chabad) that President Trump’s spoke expressing United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and ordered the long-awaited expedition of the US Congress-mandated move of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Within months, the United States Embassy in Israel was moved to its current site in Jerusalem.
However, this week, as we observe the aftermath of yet another “ceasefire” with Hamas in Gaza, which followed a thirty-six hour bombardment of Hamas rockets fired on Israel’s southern border towns, massive retaliation strikes by Israel’s Air Force and resultant resignation of Israel’s defense minister followed by that former minister’s political party leaving the governing coalition leaving that coalition teetering on the brink of dissolution. It’s beginning to look a lot like new elections.
Additionally, there have been other major negative developments; the company Airbnb has aligned themselves with the BDS movement by blacklisting, or de-listing, bnb’s owned by Jews in parts of Jerusalem and throughout Yehudah and the Shomron (Judea and Samaria) — a blatant anti-semitic move. Also, after his having served thirty years in prison, the United States Justice Department has flatly refused to permit Jonathan Pollard to serve out the remainder of his probation in Israel.
Near the end of Parshat Shemot, we learn that Moshe and Aaron gathered the Elders of B’nei Yisrael:
“Aaron spoke all the words that Hashem had spoken to Moshe; and [Moshe] performed the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed, and they heard that Hashem had remembered the B’nei Yisrael and that He saw their affliction, and they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 4, posukim 30-31 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi)
“The Midrash Says”, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman (page 45) notes:
Moshe demonstrated the signs which he had been given to establish the veracity of his mission, but the B’nei Yisrael believed in him even before being shown. As soon as he uttered the words “pakod pakad’ti”, they accepted Moshe since Serach, daughter of Asher, was still alive and affirmed that these words could only be uttered by the true savior according to the tradition she had received from the house of Yaakov.
Rabbi Weissman provides explanation of the loshen “pakod pakad’ti” (ibid, page 38):
…The Jews…. have a tradition from their forefather Yosef that this expression will be used by the true redeemer.
The two-fold expression “pakod pakad’ti” denotes: “I shall punish the Egyptians for their past crimes as well as for their future misdeeds; I shall punish them in Egypt as well as at the Yam Suf [the Reed Sea].”
However, after Moshe and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh asking that the B’nei Yisrael be permitted to “celebrate for Me [Hashem] in the wilderness” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posuk1 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi):
“Pharaoh replied, ‘Who is Hashem that I heed His voice to send out Israel? I do not know Hashem, nor will I send out Israel!” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posuk 2 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi)
Pharaoh then ordered his taskmasters to withhold the straw necessary for the Jews to make bricks, that the Jews must gather their own straw while the daily quotas of bricks remained the same. Pharaoh demanded:
“Let the work weigh heavier upon the men and let them engage in it…” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posuk 9 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi)
Under the increased burdens of their oppression:
“They [the men of Israel] encountered Moshe and Aaron standing opposite them, as they left Pharaoh’s presence. They said to them, may Hashem look upon you and judge, for you have made our very scent abhorrent in the eyes of Pharaoh and the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hands to murder us.”(Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posukim 20-21 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi)
Moshe then spoke to Hashem bemoaning the harm and increased oppression that Pharaoh had inflicted upon B’nei Yisrael resulting from Moshe’s speaking in Hashem’s name.
Our Parsha begins with the dialogue which Moshe Rebbeinu has with Hashem prior to again speaking to the B’nai Yisrael. And so, after Hashem rebukes Moshe for his complaint and reassures him that redemption is at hand, Moshe again addresses the B’nei Yisrael as to his meeting with Pharoah;
“And Moshe spoke so [Hashem’s promise of imminent Redemption] to the B’nei Yisrael and they did not listen to Moshe for anguish of spirit and hard work.” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 9)
Torah records that Hashem spoke to Moshe to inform the B’nei Yisrael of the Four Expressions of Redemption:
“…Say to the B’nei Yisrael: ‘I am Hashem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Mitzrayim [Egypt]; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. I shall take you to Me for a people and I will be a G’d to you…'” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 6, posukum 6-7 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi)
The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash cites R’ Bachya regarding the first of the four expressions of Sefer Shemot, Perek 6, posukum 6-7 (page319):
“V’Hoetzeiti” – “I shall take you out…” Hashem will remove the Jews from the burdens of slavery even before they were permitted to leave the country and while they were still in the chattels of Mitzrayim. The slavery ended in Tishrei, but did not leave Mitzrayim until six months later.
The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash cites two interpretations;
One was held by “most commentators that the verse explains that their negative attitude was due not to lack of faith, but to the difficult physical and emotional circumstances under which they labored.” (Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, pusuk 9, page 320)
The second interpretation was held by S’forno that Moshe’s message did not evoke in the people a faith in Hashem as Avraham had as expressed (ibid, referring to Sefer Breish’t Perek 15, posuk 6 below);
“And he trusted in Hashem, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
The Artscroll Stone Chumash commentary citing S’forno on Sefer Shemos, Perek 6, posuk 9, page 321 therefore states;
As a result, they lost the privilege of going to the Promised Land and their children were the ones for whom the promise … was fulfilled. The reason for their failure was their insufficiency of spirit. The posuk concludes, however, that had it not been for the hard work, they would have overcome their impatience and heeded Moshe’s appeal.
So, if we understand S’forno correctly, the generation which left Mitzrayim lost the privilege of entering Eretz Yisrael long before the episode of the miraglim (the spies whose mission was to reconnoiter the land and report back to command, meaning Moshe.
These interpretations are amplified with recollection of a vort from Shem Mishmuel who speaks about the disconnection between intellect and vocalization, and the heart and neshama which took place during the enslavement in Egypt (Shem Mishmuel pages 224-225).
According to the understanding of the cited vort, only once the B’nai Yisrael were redeemed, could the circuit; the connection between thought and it’s vocalization and the heart and neshama be completed and the B’nai Yisrael then be able to vocalize it’s deepest, heartfelt words and faith.
This author connects this whole process with a perception regarding President Trump’s expression of American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and finally starting the ball rolling toward the Embassy move.
It’s nice to get reinforcement of truth and reality from a friend, but does America’s recognition make us or break us? This author thinks NOT!
What makes or breaks Am Yisrael today is; do we collectively, among all sectors, evoke sufficient Emunah (faith) in and emulation of Hashem to justify us despite what seems to be our current travails? Do we collectively, among all sectors, act in ways which project to the world a principled nation which cleaves to and emulates the ways of Hashem, follows Torah and loves and possesses Our Land with every fiber of our being? Are we seen as truly a light unto the nations? Or are we seen as projecting through the various media an insufficiency of spirit which runs counter to Hashem’s ways at various levels, including governance, i.e. lacking even a kippah when in public, eating treyf (non-kosher food), gender abuse and same genderism, or repairing railway infrastructure, doing business or transporting a public on Shabbos, regarding Eretz Yisrael as nothing more than just another piece of real estate like the rest of the world, and more?
In order to be forged into a nation epitomizing emulation of the ways of Hashem, the Creator of all; B’nei Yisrael had to have suffered and endured the subserviance of Egypt. In Sefer Devarim, Moshe, during his mussar to B’nei Yisrael, speaks of Hashem freeing Am Yisrael from the “Koor Barzel” (the Iron Crucible of Mitzrayim) (Sefer Devarim, Parshat Va’etchanan, Perek 4, posuk 20) — the slavery, the suffering and the oppression.
And so, the plagues were not only lost opportunities for Mitzri teshuvah, but also had the purpose of forging amongst B’nei Yisrael, by their witness, rock-solid belief in Hashem, as well as a spirituality and morality based in the ways of Hashem and to serve as a paradigm of both these ways and as light of Hashem unto the nations.
May we see the fulfillment of Am Yisrael: spiritually, morally and as Hashem’s light to the nations — in our days.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.