Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Truth

There are all types of people. Some see the positives in this world and others see the negatives. Taking a look at what is going on now, you can almost fall in with those who see the sky about to fall.

The president and his administration have proven to be totally inept. They can do nothing right. Inflation is raging and nobody is sure about the economy. Covid is far from gone and nothing anyone has tried has accomplished anything to stop it. Government mandates promoted by the administration and Democrat states have been held off by the courts, and even where they have been enforced, they show no signs of slowing the virus. The Democrats and media spread hysteria throughout the population and shutdowns begin again.

Crime is rampant in America’s big cities, as “woke” Democrat policies reach their natural conclusions. The stock market teeters, waiting in vain for sensible monetary policy. Ever since assuming power, Biden and Co. have spent their time and energy putting together and promoting their deficit-busting, tax-raising, inflation-boosting Build Back Better bill. Senator Joe Manchin likely killed that bill for now, saying clearly on Sunday that there is no way he would vote for it.

The threat from Iran as it works towards procuring nuclear weapons is not new, but it is getting more pronounced daily. Successive Western governments have declared that they would never permit Iran to get the bomb, but it is hard to conceive Biden and his administration doing much besides issuing strong statements. For all of Israel’s bravado, military experts doubt they have the capability to put an end to the Iranian nuclear effort on their own. The danger is real and the solution is far off.

The Israeli government leaves much to be desired, and although not too many people thought the cynical coalition predicated upon selfish interests would survive for long, it has weathered many storms, and the longer it remains in power, the more people acclimate to it. They disagree on much, but are united in their goal of secularizing the country and changing its relationship with religion and religious people. We have been running weekly features on their initiatives, and to date no one has been able to stop the frenzied pursuit.

Fake news has taken over. Very little of what we read and hear is real. It is getting increasingly difficult to trust anybody in a position of power, and most people no longer assume that anything is what it appears to be.

It’s no way to live and not a good way to be. Despite everything that is going on, we should always maintain our faith and recognize that nothing happens on its own. Everything is designed by Hakadosh Boruch Hu for reasons not yet apparent.

While it is commonly thought that President Trump invented the concept of fake news, he merely gave the phenomenon its name. Apparently, Paroh was its inventor.

The posuk states (Shemos 1:8), “Vayokom melech chodosh al Mitzrayim asher lo yoda es YosefAnd a new Paroh arose over Mitzrayim who did not know Yosef.” Rashi quotes a Talmudic dispute between Rav and Shmuel. One explains that the posuk is saying that there was a new king. The old Paroh died and the one who assumed the position did not know Yosef. The other opinion maintains that the Paroh of Shemos was the same Paroh with whom we became familiar in Sefer Bereishis. He knew who Yosef was – after all, Yosef had saved his kingdom – but Paroh acted as though he did not know him.

According to the second explanation, Paroh is referred to as a melech chodosh because he pretended to have forgotten Yosef. He worked with the talented, reliable, efficient young man who stepped out of the ignominy and obscurity of prison to save the country. He followed Yosef’s advice, which saved his country from starvation and ruin. And then, he abruptly erased the many accomplishments of the Jew who had made Mitzrayim into a world superpower and established a system that filled his coffers.

Paroh did that because he had an agenda. There were many Jews, and Paroh began perceiving them as a threat. They had to be contained, stopped and subjugated, and his advisers suggested enslaving them. But he had a problem: What about the debt of gratitude he owed Yosef?

Paroh craftily rewrote the history and convinced himself, and his people, that the Jew had contributed nothing to the rehabilitation of Mitzrayim. His marketing people launched a campaign to change the public perception of Yosef and his people.

They likely started small, with a comment here and some innuendo there. But that was followed by: “Yosef? Who’s Yosef? I don’t know any Yosef.”

Paroh invented the art of discrediting, which is used to perfection by politicians all the time. That tool is often used against us and our community, as we are regularly tarred with a wide, filthy brush. He used fake news to the fullest, and by the time his campaign was over, he had convinced the rest of the population that the Jews were a menace; they were never good and were never going to be any good.

Everyone went all in, and taking advantage of them, Paroh enslaved them and tormented them.

The Jewish people remained loyal to their heritage and weren’t taken in by the fake news which played as an endless loop in the media of their day. The children of Yaakov stood apart in Mitzrayim. As Chazal say, “lo shinu,” they didn’t assimilate and adopt the Mitzri culture. Despite everything that was thrown at them, lo shinu – they remained faithful to the Torah that Yaakov had transmitted, which was taught in the institutions Yehuda had established. Lo shinu – they appreciated what was true, what was lasting, what was fictitious, fleeting and temporary. They knew that to survive as a people in a foreign country, they had to remain steadfast in their dedication to Yaakov’s ideals.

The temptations to assimilate into the prevailing culture were great. The thought that if we became like them they wouldn’t hate us was always there, yet they didn’t allow themselves to be convinced by the media messaging.

Despite their challenges and obstacles, the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim lived with the ideal of “lo shinu,” remembering where they came from and remaining cognizant of the promise that they would be redeemed.

Paroh’s essence and leadership were based on fabrications, as Rashi states on the words “Hinei hu yotzei hamoymah” (7:15). Paroh created a narrative about himself that anyone could have seen through had they cared enough to follow him around one day. No one did, because they were content to play along with the story. As long as the going was good, they didn’t care what the truth was.

The posuk states repeatedly that Paroh was unable to redirect his life even in the face of the makkos, because Hashem hardened his heart. Though the hearts of the country’s citizens were not hardened, they feared that were they to confront the king, the good life would be jeopardized.

In our day, as well, people learn to get along and play along, and although they know that the ruler of the land and his administration are incompetent and unqualified, they follow the media narrative, lest the balloon burst.

The Alter of Kelm asked a question pertaining to the way the Jews were rushed out of Mitzrayim. The Torah (Shemos 12:42) refers to the night we left Mitzrayim as a “leil shimurim,” which the Ramban explains to mean that that evening was set aside for the Bnei Yisroel to leave Mitzrayim. If so, why did Hashem have their exit take place in a fashion that they were chased out and did not have time to prepare their bread? Hashem could have prepared them for their exit and allowed them time to leave calmly.

The Alter answers that Hashem was testing them to see if they would be able to observe the Torah, which requires those who accept it to live peaceful, calm, accepting lives. If they would be able to withstand the pressure and the rush to leave without having been properly prepared for the dramatic change in their lives, they would be able to be given the Torah and live as proper, believing, faithful Jews. But if the tumult would overwhelm them and break them, the Torah was not for them.

Concurrent with being a Torah person is the obligation to recognize that our lives are centered around Torah, its study and its precepts, and acknowledging that since everything that transpires is from Hashem, there is never a need to lose yourself and become overwhelmed with stress and grief.

Every week, as Shabbos ends, we light a candle, sniff besomim, and begin to think about the upcoming week. We proclaim, “Hinei Keil yeshuosi evtach velo efchod.” We don’t know what the week will bring, but we aren’t afraid, because we know that Hashem will be with us. As we leave the holiness and peace of Shabbos, embarking on a venture into the mundane, we are prepared for all eventualities.

We say to Hashem, to ourselves and to our families that we are about to go out into the storm that is life, but we will do so as believing Torah Yidden.

By following the Torah and its mitzvos, we will succeed in olam hazeh. Through reinforcing ourselves with Torah and mussar, we will accomplish the missions we were sent here to carry out.

It was in the climate of Mitzrayim, ruled by fiction and dominated by lies, that the People of Truth began distinguishing themselves, a goy mikerev goy standing proud, a nation of truth and destiny.

We see many people unsure of their identities and insecure about their destinies. Many are rootless and guided by superficiality, gullibly chasing whatever seems appealing, without any examination. We see vacuous people without values, living selfishly and hedonistically, covering their impulses with a fig leaf of religiosity. Some are jealous of them, wishing they had the wherewithal to lead what they view as the blessed life.

To survive in golus, we need to remain a people of depth and intelligence, loyalty and determination. We should think about how our forefathers would perceive our conduct. If we feel that our actions will help bring us closer to the geulah, then we should continue with them. If they don’t measure up, we must be honest enough with ourselves to recognize the error of our ways.

As clever as we think we are, we are seduced by clever marketing, convinced by silly slogans and taken in by slick graphics. The superficial arguments and enticements overwhelm and engulf us. We should be better than that.

If we don’t fall prey to false narratives, and we recognize what is important and what isn’t, we can rectify that which needs correcting and reinforce that which requires strengthening.

We are the people entrusted with the Torah because we do not become flustered and overwhelmed by issues of the moment. We are a people of truth, who are dedicated to living lives of truth. If we remember where we come from, what we stand for and why we are here, we will merit to be brought home.

May the geulah come speedily in our day.



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