This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Shemot (5765)
This week's section begins and ends with tragedy.
It opens with the decree of Pharaoh to enslave the Jews and kill their male babies and ends with Moses complaining to G-d for not stopping it.
This raises several questions. Firstly, why did G-d do it? Couldn't He just have let the Jews alone? Secondly, why did Moses complain? Maybe we don't understand G-d's ways. But Moses was different.
Moses was a Tzaddik - a G-dly man. He knew that G-d doesn't make mistakes
and everything is for the best.
There was once a kind man that couldn't stand to see anything suffer. He house was filled with stray animals he adopted, he took crippled birds and nursed them and he couldn't even bear to step on ants.
One day he while walking in his garden he noticed an amazing thing; a caterpillar making its cocoon. He stood for several hours watching this wondrous miracle and became so fascinated that every day he went out and watched for developments imagining how the caterpillar was metamorphosizing into a beautiful butterfly.
Then, after a few weeks he noticed that something was happening. The cocoon was moving and trembling ever so slightly. He understood what was happening; the caterpillar had certainly grown into a large BUTTERFLY was undoubtedly STRUGGLING to get out of its cramped silken cell.
The butterfly was SUFFERING!
A wave of mercy swept over his entire being and he knew what he had to do.
He pulled out his small pocket knife, gently slit the length of the cocoon then delicately pried it open.
He thanked G-d for the opportunity to have done such a good deed as the probably grateful butterfly slowly crawled out of its prison.
He watched lovingly, almost in tears, as it spread its beautiful wings in the warm sun and he waited for the moment it would flitter away in graceful flight.
But it didn't.
The butterfly did not fly. It just sat there weakly flapping its wings until after a few hours it died.
Out hero did not know that he had done the butterfly a great disservice.
He wasn't aware that butterflies, in struggling to escape from their cocoons, strengthen and develop certain muscles and sinews necessary for flying.
And without having passed that ordeal, this butterfly was grounded forever.
So too the suffering of the Jews in Egypt was certainly for their benefit (and similarly any, G-d forbid, suffering a person has to undergo); to strengthen their faith and fortitude. And to release them prematurely would be as big a mistake as cutting the cocoon.
So why did Moses cry out to G-d, "Why have you made the Jews suffer!?"
(5:22) Did he doubt G-d's goodness? How could he forgo the benefits that only exile could bring?
Perhaps we can answer from a story I read in 'Migdal Oz' by Rabbi Zelig Slonim (Maaseh 177)
The Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber, led Russian Jewry through the horrendous tribulations of World War I.
The Russian forces, seriously outmaneuvered and outsmarted by the Germans, were loosing on all fronts but that did not stop them from sending more and more soldiers to battle. It finally got to the point that induction to the army was almost sure death.
But to run away was impossible. The only chance was the Rebbe. Chassidim traveled from throughout Russia to Lubavitch to get his infallible blessing.
In some cases the Rebbe told them to feign insanity, others he told to change draft boards, to some he told to maim themselves in various ways, to others to bribe the officials. Those those that followed his advice were never disappointed.
But there were also some young Chassidim that the Rebbe was not able to help. They were destined to serve in the army and their destiny could not be altered.
One such 'impossible' case was Mottle (invented name).
He went into the Rebbe and received the worst news. The Rebbe looked down and said in his most serious tone, "G-d will help" which meant that the
decree was irreversible.
Desperate for salvation he went to the Rebbe's mother, Rebbetzin Rivka and asked if she could possibly help. She agreed.
The next morning she waited for the time that the Rebbe, her son, began seeing people privately (called 'Yechidut'), entered without asking and made her request.
"My son. I beg you, please promise me that Mottle gets freed from the draft.
"Mother" the Rebbe replied, 'how can I promise such a thing? It is all in the hands of G-d. Only G-d can help!
But his mother did not take 'no' for an answer and asked even more clearly, "My son, I want you to promise that he will not go to the army. I beg you."
The Rebbe looked at her and repeated his reply. "It is out of my hands".
But she was persistent. "My son, I know you can promise. I want a promise that he will not be drafted."
The Rebbe looked down, thought for a few seconds and answered "With the help of G-d, he will be exempted."
His mother came out of the room in joy and declared, "Certainly the telegram will arrive very soon."
Within two hours an urgent telegram arrived that he was rejected from service in the army.
This explains why Moses demanded from G-d.
True, all suffering (G-d forbid) has a benefit, even if we don't see it immediately.
But on the other hand G-d is infinite. and that is why Moses questioned Him:
"G-d, why do you have to make the Jews suffer in order to achieve this benefit? After all You are infinite and can do what You want!!
"Why can't You accomplish the same thing in a less painful way?"
In fact that is why WE pray (in fact we are commanded to pray) now: to change G-d's will so that even we can SEE G-d's goodness without hardships.
Add this to the fact that Moses, like the Rebbe did in our story, had even a greater influence on G-d than anyone else. And also that Moses was trying to redeem ALL the Jewish people from exile!
Given all this, it is completely understood why Moses questioned, and even DEMANDED from G-d that He stop all Jewish suffering IMMEDIATELY.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that our generation is very similar to the one we are reading about here.
Ours is the last generation of exile and the FIRST GENERATION OF MOSHIACH.
And he said that all that is lacking is for us to pray and demand from G-d with all our hearts as Moses did, "Why have you made the Jews suffer!? Why don't You redeem us NOW?!'"
"Certainly the time for the redemption has arrived; the time when all pain, suffering, disease, poverty and war will cease!! And the world will be filled with blessing, meaning and joy. WE WANT....."
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