Friday, January 7, 2022

Escaping Confinement

The Jewish People evolving from a small family to a proud nation is nearly complete in the narrative of this week's Parsha. The story of the Exodus is recorded in great detail. It is nothing short of remarkable to hear once again about how a few million Jews who were slaves marched out to freedom in broad daylight and their former masters were powerless to stop their journey to liberty. Putting it into a historical context, there were upwards of 650,000 casualties (that’s a conservative estimate) in the Civil War which was primarily fought for the emancipation of slaves. In the Exodus, the former Jewish slaves marched out of the clutches of a mighty superpower without a shot being fired. For this reason, the Exodus occupies such prominence in our lives and is remembered on our calendar with the celebration of Pesach and Sukkos. As important as the Exodus is in the story of the Jewish People, there seems to be disproportionate attention to this particular event. There are so many Mitzvahs connected to the Exodus that are well beyond the observance of Pesach and Sukkos. There is a special Mitzvah to remember all the days of our lives. Doesn't there seem to be a disproportionate focus on this event that occurred 3,300 years ago? There are a variety of perspectives on this pointed question and I would like to share the perspective of the Nesivos Shalom. He writes that it is imperative to not just merely view the Exodus as a one-time event but rather as a struggle that we are regularly experiencing. He notes that the word מצרים or Egypt is associated with the word מצר or confinement. All of us are confronted with challenges that feel as מצר or confinement in areas such as health, family spirituality. No one has immunity from any obstacles or difficulties. At these moments it is not unusual to have a crisis of faith and wonder when G-d will come through for us to deliver some relief. It is precisely for that reason that there is such a strong emphasis on the Exodus. It is for that reason that we are regularly reminding ourselves about salvation when all seemed bleak. As the Torah states in Devarim (6:23) וְאוֹתָנוּ הוֹצִיא מִשָּׁם or He took us out of there. We may never have been to the geographical territory named Egypt nor do we have any plans to get there but that matters little. The most important element to remember is that no matter what place of confinement a person may find themselves in, we believe in the Al-Mighty that continually delivers redemption in any place and at any time. That message of hope is something we ought to reflect on the next time we observe any of the mItzvahs connected to the Exodus. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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