Wednesday, May 29, 2024

What’s Doing?

Va’eira, which we lain this week, is the second parsha in the seder of geulah. Although Shemos, Va’eira and Bo are separately named parshiyos, together they tell the remarkable story leading to our nation’s redemption from slavery.

Moshe Rabbeinu appears before the Bnei Yisroel and attempts to shine rays of hope about the future upon them. He promises that after hundreds of years of servitude, the Jewish nation would be redeemed. And guess what happened? Nobody cared to listen to him. The posuk (6:9) reports, sadly and hauntingly, “Velo shomu el Moshe mikotzer ruach umei’avodah kashah.”

Just try to imagine the scene. Moshe Rabbeinu was tending to his flock in the wilderness as he had been doing for many years, ever since he escaped from Mitzrayim. Suddenly, he beheld the extraordinary sight of a bush aflame. He stopped what he was doing to consider what was taking place in front of him, as he wondered how it could be that the fire was burning but the bush wasn’t being consumed.

Like his ancestor, Avrohom Avinu, who studied the world and concluded that it could not have come into being by itself, as the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 39:1) relates, Moshe perceived that the Creator was announcing His Presence. He recognized that this was a defining moment in his life.

While Moshe was standing at the bush, the Ribbono Shel Olam addressed him, stating that he has been selected for a lofty mission, with a mandate to save His people.

Moshe asks for assurance. “What Name shall I tell them?” he says.

Hashem revealed Himself using the name of “Ehkeh asher Ehkeh – I will be with them through this golus and all the subsequent travails and hard times.”

Moshe was fresh off experiencing the revelation of the Creator of heaven and earth, who had decreed that the children of the avos, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, to whom He had previously appeared, would be enslaved in a strange land and eventually freed.

No doubt exultant after his long conversation with Hashem and bearing the knowledge that the painful enslavement would soon end, Moshe went to share the good news with his brothers and sisters who had been suffering for as long as anyone could remember.

He appeared to them and said the five most glorious expressions of geulah, the very words they had been waiting to hear their entire lives and we celebrate until today at the Pesach seder: vehotzeisi, vehitzalti, vegoalti, velokachti and veheiveisi.

Tragically, almost unbelievably, the enslaved heirs of the avos to whom Hashem had previously appeared didn’t listen.

“Velo shomu el Moshe mikotzer ruach umei’avodah kashah.”

They didn’t listen. They couldn’t listen. They didn’t have the keilim with which to listen. They were incapable of hearing the words that would have transformed everything for them. They failed to digest the message promising hope for a better tomorrow.

Like every posuk in the Torah, this posuk is recorded for posterity to instruct and guide us. The words and their lessons remain relevant for eternity. We must always be ready to hear words of hope and positivity.

We live in a state of constant anticipation, always awaiting good news. Like the Chofetz Chaim, with his special kappota ready for Moshiach’s imminent arrival, we all carry a sense of expectancy, viewing the events around us through eyes that look beyond them, our ears listening for the footsteps of our go’el.

The situation in our world is bleak, to be sure. Suddenly, it has once again become acceptable to be anti-Semitic. Each day, it seems, there is graffiti in some other supposed safe place, reminding us that we are in golus. Tiny Eretz Yisroel is being targeted by despots and crazies. The Torah community has its own problems and is being targeted by secularists, who quietly prepare to take the reins of power from Binyomin Netanyahu and consolidate power without him or his religious and right-wing allies.

We hear angry words and threats from Iran, but we see past them, as we wonder if this is yet another step in preparing the world for the final redemption.

The sun shines brightly, though at times its rays are concealed by clouds. We have the ability to see beyond the clouds to the light and warmth of the sun.

Few things are more disturbing than encountering bitter people. They are surrounded by opportunity and blessing, yet they insist on concentrating on the negatives. Such people remain locked in by the inability to see beyond the negativity that envelopes them. They are unable to see past the darkness to better days.

Two people meet and one says to the other, “Shalom Aleichem. What’s doing?” Chances are that if there is nothing sad or negative to report on, the other fellow replies, “Nothing.” If there isn’t a good fight to discuss or a silly comment someone made, or a death, or some other calamity, then nothing is doing.

Why is that? There is so much good in our world, so many good things going on, yet that doesn’t seem worth discussing. There is much to be happy about and proud of, yet too many are consumed by the negative, concentrating on the bad news and failing to see the entire picture.

We forget that we are blessed to live in a land of plenty, which provides for the poor and those unable to make ends meet. Nobody goes to bed hungry, everybody has a warm place to be.

We just experienced dozens of siyumim of Shas around the world. Wherever there is a kehillah of Jews, there was a Siyum Hashas, with almost total communal participation. Everyone joined together with achdus to celebrate the achievement. That’s a good thing. Look at the good. Don’t look to take potshots.

There are so many people, yeshivos, schools and organizations doing good things. There are so many generous people supporting them. Look at the good and rejoice in it.

Fresh off the Holocaust, which almost decimated our people, we have reestablished ourselves and now flourish in cities and towns across the globe. The waves of assimilation that plagued first-generation religious Americans are non-existent. We can basically do what we want, where we want, and no one bothers us.

Why the negativity? Why the harping on what is wrong without appreciating the good?

The process of learning Torah and avodas hamussar is meant to train us to see the tov. We are to acquire an ayin tovah that allows us to discern the good in what we do have and to appreciate the fortune that abounds, if only we were ready to look a little deeper. In order to be good Jews, we have to be happy with the present and positive about the future. If we aren’t, it is an indication of how much we are lacking in the study of Torah and mussar.

Torah and mussar keep the person who studies them active, optimistic, energetic and positive. It shapes an individual into a mentch, a person who respects others and is worthy of respect himself.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh (6:9) explains that the reason the Jews in Mitzrayim were not able to listen to the words of Moshe was because they were not bnei Torah. Torah broadens a person’s heart, he says. Had they been bnei Torah, they would have been receptive to Moshe’s message. We, who have been granted the gift of Torah, have no excuse for not being open to hearing the words of the Moshe Rabbeinus of our generation and those who seek to improve our lots and help us prepare ourselves for the geulah.

Every week, there are dinners, parlor meetings and receptions for yeshivos, shuls and mosdos of tzedakah and chesed. People open their wallets and help each other.

We must ensure that we don’t fall into the category of “velo shomu el Moshe,” those who aren’t able to accept good news. Let us not grow so despondent about our situation that we can’t hear and see the good that is prevalent.

We need to be positive and open to hearing the words and teachings of the Moshes of the generation. Our emunah must be such that it allows us to believe, accept and work on messages that seek our improvement and promise to bring us closer to geulah.

We are currently in the last stages of the final golus. The three earlier exiles were caused by the sins of avodah zarah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim. The current golus is caused by lashon hara and sinas chinom.

In order to merit the geulah, we have to uproot those sins and remove them from our midst. Ridding our people of them is increasingly difficult, but since it is a prerequisite to getting us to the place where we belong, we need to work to rid division and derision from our people.

Despite the emphasis placed on rectifying them, they linger, seemingly ever present. There are so many programs and projects designed to rectify us, but we remain divided and gossipy nonetheless.

Rav Tzadok Hakohein says (Pri Tzaddik, Rosh Chodesh Nissan) that Moshe Rabbeinu explained to Hashem that appealing to Paroh would be of no use. “Aich yishmo’eini Paroh,” Paroh would not listen, he said, because “va’ani aral sefosoyim.”

Although Hashem, who is “som peh l’adam,” assured Moshe Rabbeinu that He would repair his speech defect and Paroh would accept what he says, Moshe explained his reticence in approaching Paroh, because “va’ani aral sefosoyim,” referring to the orlah, which refers to the yeitzer hara. Moshe complained that the yeitzer hara was blocking his voice from being heard and accepted.

Moshe was the messenger of the Bnei Yisroel and derived his energy from them. As long as they were sinful, he was not able to speak on their behalf. His sefosayim were covered by orlah, so to speak. But when the Bnei Yisroel did teshuvah, returned to the study of Torah, and renewed their faith in Hashem, Moshe was able to speak to Paroh on their behalf.

The Arizal taught that the name of the chag of Pesach hints to the gift of speech, as it can be pronounced as peh soch, which literally translates as the mouth speaks.

We must be careful not to become overwhelmed by the tumah of our surroundings. We must not let the areilus overtake us, but always remember to live Yiddishe lives of kedusha and taharah, dedicated to dikduk b’lashon, kiyum hamitzvos and limud haTorah.

Areilus hardens our souls and causes us to engage in lashon hora and sinas chinom, which subvert the heart of man and cause so much negativity, machlokes and hatred. We must reinforce our emunah that we have the ability to bring about the geulah if we conduct ourselves in a way that allows Moshe to speak and permits us to hear his message.

What’s doing? Great things are happening. What’s happening? Great stuff!

Every day we get a little better.

Every day our people are improving. There is more Torah, more achdus, and more tzedakah.

Every day, there are more zechuyos to get us – and keep us – on track to be mekabeil pnei Moshiach tzidkeinu.



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