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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

The parshiyos of the six weeks of Shovevim (with this year being a leap year we add another two weeks) deal with the enslavement of Klal Yisroel in Mitzrayim and their subsequent redemption and salvation. Many seforim discuss how a man’s struggle with his yetzer hora is symbolised by the enslavement in Mitzrayim and Hashem’s ultimate help in redeeming him.

The passages in these readings describe the hard work and bitterness of the oppression in Mitzrayim, and how we see that the Yidden didn’t listen to Moshe “mi’kotzer ruach ume’avodah kasha, due to oppressiveness of spirit and hard work”.

The Sfas Emes explains that the immorality of Egypt had enveloped the Bnei Yisroel to the point that they just couldn’t imagine a life beyond Egypt, nor a world without the corrosiveness instilled by their enslavement. The Rebbe ztl points out that in the beginning of Parsha Va’era Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu to tell the nation, “I am Hashem and I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt … and I will redeem you …” (Shemos 6:6)

Why does the Torah need to tell us the order of events leading to the redemption? Obviously, when we are redeemed, we are no longer subject to the burdens of Egypt. The Chiddushei Harim explains that although the plain meaning of the words refers to physical servitude, the deeper meaning refers to tolerating the burden of the impurity, the evil and the decadence of Egypt.

The Torah is not simply listing the sequence of events leading up to the redemption. The Torah is teaching us that the first event is a requirement for the next. When can the redemption begin? Only after the decadence of Egypt becomes a burden to us, and we cannot bear it any longer.

This also explains the deeper meaning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s response to Hashem’s command to speak to Pharaoh.

Moshe Rabbeinu said, “Here, the children of Israel did not listen to me so how will Pharaoh listen to me? …” (Shemos 6:12)

What is the logic here? The Torah states that the children of Israel did not listen to Moshe because of their anguished spirit and hard labour. This certainly did not apply to Pharaoh. What is the meaning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s response, then?

The Sfas Emes explains that Moshe Rabbeinu understood that before redemption the nation would need to become fed up with the decadence of Egypt. Since they did not listen to him, this obviously had not yet happened.

There is an old saying: It took one day for the Yidden to leave Egypt and forty years for Egypt to leave the Yidden.

So, let’s relate this to contemporary times and our own Mitzrayim. Each of us has a tad of Mitzrayim within; it’s that nagging Achilles heel in which we feel challenged as Torah-true Yidden. This may consist of a myriad of base feelings or drives that trigger within us behaviours that create layers of crassness that conceal the Pintele Yied that lies within us. We are meant to work on these failures constantly so as to be redeemed from the personal Golus that is holding us back. True illumination is there for everyone. What holds it back is the self-imposed Mitzrayim that plagues us.

Driving much of today’s Golus are the very streets our feet tread upon. They seethe with immorality, sights which cannot be compared with anything our holy ancestors had to deal with. Shemiras Einayim is a mitzvah that begs to be addressed in clear terms so Bnei Yisroel knows exactly what the Torah seeks for us.

Every epoch in our thousands of years of Golus came with its particular weaknesses and temptations. The Chofetz Chaim brought the sins of Lashon Hora onto the tables of every Yiddishe home. Perhaps in our Golus we need to extract all the holy words written concerning our present weaknesses and put them on the table of our communal discussions.

These weeks speak to our individual redemptions, each of us fighting to withstand the particular challenges that we have. As a whole, we must stand together, without being judgmental and help one another.

The heilige Vorka Rebbe, Reb Itzikel ztl was renowned for his warmth and compassion for all our brethren. There once came a Yied who personally wasn’t a Chassid with a particular request. He and his wife had an ailing child. The wife seeing the child’s worsening condition begged her husband to travel to the Tzaddik in Vorka to ask for a brocho. The Yied was reluctant; he didn’t buy into all this Rebbe philosophy. Finally, he acceded to her request and made the long trip by wagon. Entering the Rebbe’s room, he laid a kvittel on the table and stood awaiting the Rebbe’s blessing. The Rebbe gave a long sigh, “Reb Yied, I am so sorry for you. I think you should head home quickly.”

The Yied understood that his child did not have much more time to live in this world, so he rushed to a carriage that was heading to his home village and jumped in. As the carriage was about to leave, he saw Rav Itzikel running towards him. He mounted the carriage and said to the man, “I’m so sorry.” The man responded, “It’s no problem, Rebbe. I understand that it is the Ribbono Shel Olam who runs the world.”

“I’m really so sorry,” the Rebbe responded. “Rebbe,” the man answered, “why do you keep apologising? It’s not your fault.” The Tzaddik explained. “You don’t understand. I’m not apologising for your son; that is not in my hands. I’m apologising because when I gave you the bad news, at least I could have cried with you. So now, as we sit here, let’s cry together.”

We are told that when the man got home, he found that his child had a miraculous recovery, which began during the time that The Vorka Rebbe cried with the father.

We can’t sit idly by; we are all hurting in the Golus. Let’s at least cry with one another, accepting that we have yet to seek the end of our personal pain, and hopefully we will be zoche to true redemption.