This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shemot (5760)
This week we are introduced to Moshe, 'the Faithful Shepherd' of the Jewish people.
Moshe was a true leader. If it were not for his leadership the Jewish people would never have left Egypt (in fact the majority remained behind) and certainly would not have received the Torah.
The Zohar explains that Moshe was more than just a national leader, he was also a 'Shepherd of Faith': he inspired each and every Jew to be more trusting in G-d and enthusiastic in serving Him. He literally fed them faith. Or more exactly, he fed their faith.
Every Jew automatically has faith in G-d the moment he is born, that is the essence of the Jewish soul. Moshe's job was to 'feed' this faith i.e. to make it stronger and more active until it becomes the deciding factor in every facet of each and every Jew's life.
So we see that Moshe took the Jewish people not only physically, but also spiritually out of Egypt.
This was no small task. It says in the Medrash that the Egyptians were very spiritual people; they had great mystical powers and even their small school children had the ability to turn sticks into snakes.
Judiasm, even in the time of Moshe, never was able to promise its adherents such spiritual achievements.
If so, what does it mean to go spiritually out of Egypt, and why is it such a necessary thing? Couldn't G-d just have made peace between the Jews and their taskmasters, they could learn from us and we from them etc., and spare all those nasty plagues?
The answer is like this: the word for 'Egypt' (Mitzrayim) also means 'limitations'.
When Moshe strengthened the faith of 'Am Yisroel' and took them out of Mitzrayim, he actually took them out of all limitations even spiritual ones.
He connected them to the Creator and not the creation, and the spiritual, no matter how high, is only part of the creation.
This, then, was the birth of the Jewish people, they realized that they all were really 'the Special Sons of G-d". This is also one of the reasons that, to this very day, every Jew has faith in G-d somewhere deep in his soul. It is just the job of the 'Moshe Rabbenu' in every generation (the Zohar and Midrash tells us that in every generation there will always be a leader like Moshe) to awaken and nourish this faith.
This is the secret of the 'Burning Bush'. You may have wondered why G-d didn't introduce Himself to Moshe in a more impressive way, like speaking to him from a burning mountain or a Tornado?
The Baal Shem Tov explains that G-d wanted to show Moshe the unquenchable and burning Faith that is found only in simple Jews.
Intelligent or successful Jews can be liked to mountains or such, but the simple Jew that, like a lowly bush, has no 'fruits' i.e. achievements to boast of, nevertheless possesses a love of G-d that can be found nowhere else. This was what made Moshe "Turn aside to see" namely to leave his own personal, albeit Holy, considerations, (because Moshe was already a 'Tzadik', a completely righteous Jew) and dedicate himself totally to being the shepherd of the Jewish people, even against Pharaoh's, (and their own!) will.
Now we are ready for the next step:
What happens when a person goes out of his own Mitzrayim and gets attached to the Creator?
First of all we must get one thing clear; who ever made up that song: "Let ma people go" made a BIG mistake. (It also was printed on the Israeli ten shekel note).
What G-d said REALLY said to Moshe was that he should go tell Pharaoh "Let my people go AND THEY WILL SERVE ME".
This last clause is the part that everyone likes to forget. The reason that we got out of Egypt is not only to stop being the slaves of Pharaoh but also to start being the servants of HaShem.
This is what people do when they are really free; they begin to do what HaShem wants. And this was Moshe's main job; to feed the faith and thereby encourage the Jews to serve G-d.
This is why Moshe is compared to Moshiach and not Yosef.
Although they were both 'kings' and both ruled totally over the Jewish people. And although only Yosef is called 'HaTzadik' because of his righteousness, nevertheless only Moshe is called the "First and last redeemer".
(The idea of 'Moshiach ben Yosef' which appears in Medrash and Cabala is shrouded in Mystery, and is interpreted many ways, for instance; some say that it was Rabbi Issac Luria, the Ari z"l, others say that it will be one stage in the life of Moshiach ben Dovid.)
I think that this can be explained simply; the job of the Moshiach will be essentially to make Jews uncomfortable; to take them out of their present states of mind, no matter how holy and righteous, and bring them to a totally new awareness and service of G-d.
Therefore it states in the Zohar that the Moshiach will bring even the Tzadikim (the completely righteous) to 'Tshuva' i.e. repentance!
This was the work begun by Moshe.
Yosef, however, did the opposite; he made the Jews feel comfortable in Egypt and as long as he lived no Jew thought of leaving.
(This is the good part). The Midrash tells us that Pharaoh was so worried by his fortune tellers' predictions that he would loose his throne to someone born in the near future, that he actually had all male children drowned, including those of his own people! (The Lubavitch Rebbe said that this is still happening today; Jewish parents throw their own children into the river of making-money [the Nile was the source of Egyptian commerce] in an often-unconscious effort to 'drown' them to Judaism).
Interestingly enough, not only did Pharaoh's efforts fail, but in addition to making one of the worst P.R. moves in history, he himself ended up protecting and bringing up (in his own home!) the very man that he so feared.
It shows us that HaShem always keeps His promises; in this case the promise that he made to Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov that He would redeem His Children, the Jewish people, from Egypt against all odds.
So also with us today; the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who made and publicized scores of major prophesies, which all came true, said just less than ten years ago, "The time for our redemption has begun". The Gulf war was only the beginning of a series of miracles which will show the Jews, and the rest of the world how much G-d loves His people and His creation. The Moshiach will be revealed any day. And just like back then, we will go out of all our problems with great miracles.
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