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Parashat Vaera - 5777

Dear friends,

Last week's Parasha ended on a bad note. Moses complained to G-d that since he appeared before Pharaoh in G-d's name things got worse for the Israelites. Pharaoh increased his demands on the slaves and made their lives even more bitter than before. In last week's Parasha Pharaoh was very clear that he did not believe in G-d. He asked: "Who is G-d that I should listen to him?"

This week's Parasha begins with G-d giving Moses a lesson in faith. G-d says to Moses several times, "Anee Adonay" - "I am the L-rd". G-d instructs Moses to tell the Israelites:

  1. I am the L-rd,
  2. that G-d has heard their cry, and
  3. that G-d is ready to fulfill the promises He made to their ancestors.

After that follow five expressions of redemption that G-d is about to fulfill:

  1. I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt.
  2. I will redeem you from their bondage.
  3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and extraordinary chastisements.
  4. I will take you to be My people, and I will be your G-d.
  5. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and I will give it to you as a possession.

Moses spoke all these words to the children of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses because of 'Kotzer Ruah' and 'Avodah Kasha'. 'Kotzer Ruah' is interpreted as 'crushed spirits' or 'lack of patience'. 'Avodah Kasha' is interpreted as 'cruel bonding' or 'hard work'.

From these various expressions of redemption developed the custom of drinking four cups of wine (or grape juice) at the Passover Seder, and the fifth cup is the cup of Elijah to symbolize the return to the Land of Israel.

It would seem that the quest for redemption and the return and possession of the Land promised to the Children of Israel continues to this day. Many nations just will not accept a Jewish state in that part of the world.

The story of the enslavement in Egypt and the redemption that follow can also be a metaphor in our individual lives. The literal translation of 'Mitzrayim' - Egypt - can also mean struggles, difficulties, or troubles. The hope for redemption is 'Yetziat Mizrayim' - to be able to get out of Mitzrayim. Every human being at some point in life faces Mitzrayim, struggles and difficulties. The goal is to get out of Mitzrayim, find a way to leave those barriers, and hope for redemption. It took the Israelites some time before they became believers and allowed themselves to leave Mitzrayim.

Believe in yourself that you can find the way out of what depresses you or holds you back. Everyone deserves a Yetziat Mitzrayim, a personal Exodus from Egypt.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram