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Searching for Happiness in the Parsha of Va'era

Published on Friday February 12th, 2021

The story of the exodus from Egypt constitutes a yearly experience, imbued with great solemnity and intense emotion. It reminds us of the dreadful servitude endured by our ancestors and of the prodigious miracles that enabled the Bnei Israel to become free of the Egyptian yoke.

As always, the Torah is not trying to remind us of an old story simply to duly memorize it. Rather, it invites us to acknowledge how past events still resonate in our time.

In fact, the echoes are numerous. We would like to focus on the hope expressed by our Parsha and on the optimism it can fuel in everyone's heart.

Our Sages questioned the need for such a multiplicity of miracles. Was it necessary to perform ten plagues to lead to the liberation of the Bnei Israel? A single plague would have sufficed if Hashem had so wished!

Via the miracles that occurred in Egypt, God wanted to deeply anchor the message of His omnipotence and His ability to transform the laws of nature in the heart of men. Nothing can resist God, everything is in His hands.

This was not self-evident to our ancestors, especially in Egypt, which had deeply sunk into the throes of impurity and idolatry. In a similar way, monotheism had been professed by our Patriarchs and their descendants; but this knowledge had not yet spread to the entire world. A major inaugural event was called for to demonstrate to humanity that God is in complete control of all the elements related to the earth, the cosmos, and the heavens. The publication of this message is achieved by the ten plagues.

A second fundamental lesson must be drawn from the Egyptian experience: God intervenes in the world to help men, especially His people, the children of Israel. This principle is at the basis of Rav Yehuda Halevy’s book, the Kuzari. The latter reminds us that, in opposition to other beliefs, which remove God’s intervention from the world’s affairs and limit his capacity to modify the laws of the creation of heaven and earth, the Torah promulgates Hashem’s direct intervention in the world in an unprecedented, revolutionary way.

These two teachings announce a wonderful lesson of happiness, emerging from our Parsha. Hashem does not abandon men to the chaos of nature. He is not indifferent to His children’s daily life and plight. On the contrary, He intervenes and meddles in the world directly to assist men, even if he needs to suspend the laws of physics which rule the world naturally.

From then on, man perceives that he is not alone. Hashem stands by his side and accompanies him throughout his life. Many Sages, especially those who adhere to the doctrine of Rav Nachman of Breslov, recommend developing the virtue of speaking with God, of sharing our concerns with Him and seeking His support. Sometimes we find it hard to do so; we are ashamed to “bother” Him with our small concerns, but in reality, He listens to all our prayers!

Man is thus summoned to open his heart to God's omnipresence. Thus he may cultivate hope, whatever his circumstances, and that everything can be transformed for the ultimate good.

No natural law nor obstacle can obstruct Hashem’s intervention. This is a fundamental teaching, amid a long list of miracles that occurred in Egypt.

This lesson is particularly critical because men often tend to feel overwhelmed by difficulties. Sometimes we see no way to overcome our trials and we feel trapped in a suffocating prison. These feelings may lead to a vicious circle of "depression" that sucks our energy and obsessively occupies our thoughts.

The study of our Parsha may help us develop the "antibodies" to protect us against this type of reasoning, which strictly subordinates man to the laws of nature. The Torah, quite to the contrary, invites us to view our lives "Lemala Min Hateva - beyond nature"; to reach the understanding that everything is in the hands of God and that all the  “insurmountable” obstacles that men endure in life are transformable to the Creator of the world.

The role of man is thus to "simply" strengthen himself in the fear of God through the daily study of the Torah and the practice of Mitzvot, and to develop beautiful qualities in his heart to reach out soulfully to his fellow man. This approach gradually enables man to internalize the theoretical knowledge of God's unlimited capacity, and utilize it to enhance his concrete reality, brighten his soul and warm his heart.

Jérome TOUBOUL - © Torah-Box Account

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