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12 Nisan 5768 - April 17, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
"As If He Himself Left Egypt"

by Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Man Shach zt"l

[This shmuess was delivered in 5743.]

Part III

The first part explained how clear it is and how much testimony there was to the truth of the events around yetzias Mitzrayim. The entire generation that went out was, in effect, a witness to what is written in the Torah. This shmuess strongly reflects the elemental emunah that Maran HaRav Shach stressed continually stressed in so many of his talks.

The second part discusses in depth the idea that Hashem is constantly creating the world and that without His constant creation the world would revert to nothingness. The world is not just the result of a one-time act of Creation by Hashem, but it is the result of a continuing act on His part to keep it in existence. When He wills it, the sea is water. When He will it, the sea is dry land, such as at Krias Yam Suf.


When we study this more deeply we will realize the great pleasure this reality bestows on us. Since "there is none besides Him," even if a person appears far from the Creator he may actually be very close to him, with the utmost nearness. We can learn this from the Yalkut Shimoni (parshas Shemos) in the episode of the "Burning Bush": "`And Moshe said: "I will now turn aside and see this great sight" (Shemos 3:3). R' Yochonon said: "Moshe walked three steps." Resh Lokish said: "He did not walk, but turned his neck." HaKodosh Boruch Hu said: "You took the pains to see. I swear that I will reveal it to you." Immediately, `Hashem called to him out of the midst of the bush' (v. 4)."

Chazal explain that "I will now turn aside" means that Moshe desired closeness to the Creator of the World so as to be zocheh to prophetic vision. Since Hashem's reality fills the whole world and "there is none besides Him," an additional slight bit of closeness was sufficient for him to be zocheh to see prophetic visions. It was only necessary that Moshe show his longing to become closer to Hashem. Once he walked three steps, or just turned his neck, the King of Kings immediately revealed Himself to Moshe gave him prophecy.

We furthermore find in the Yalkut Tehillim (45) "`To the chief Musician, to Shoshanim, by the sons of Korach . . . My heart overflows with a good theme'(45:1-2). This teaches you that their mouths could not confess, but since their heart was astir with teshuvoh it was accepted by HaKodosh Boruch Hu. . . . And why could they not say shirah with their mouths? The abyss [of Gehennom] was opened and the fire was burning around them."

Korach's sons were already in Gehennom, in its seventh, lowest, division, with fire burning around them. They were powerless to speak. They could not express themselves with their mouths and say shirah to Hashem. Their heart, however, overflowed with feelings of full repentance to Hashem, of coming nearer to Him. Since their hearts were aroused to do teshuvoh and to come closer to Hashem they were accepted by HaKodosh Boruch Hu — "And the sons of Korach did not die" (Bamidbar 26:11).

Why is this so? Since Hashem's unity encompasses the whole creation and "there is none besides Him," no matter how far a person may appear from Hashem he is really extremely near Him. A person need only discover what his heart desires, if it is to really want to come closer to Hashem. After that, Hashem immediately accepts his teshuvoh. His heart's desire must, however, be so such a sincere and thorough desire to come closer to Hashem that the One Who knows the Hidden can testify that it is so. With merely a superficial desire a person cannot be privileged to become nearer to Elokim, even though He is found everywhere.


We can learn these principles in depth from the parshiyos regarding yetzias Mitzrayim. Not only must we believe in them, we must study them intensively. Although we must surely believe them, it is necessary to re- examine them, to refresh our memory and to grasp them better, until we not only understand them but view them tangibly — envisaging ourselves as if we had left Egypt.

Similarly we must see the Creator of the World. We must see the Creator in every movement of our body. When a person speaks he must see the Creator. When he raises his hand he must see the Creator. With everything he does he should see the work of Heaven, see the Creator, see the Ruler of the World, Whose reality encompasses the whole Creation. The Supreme Power is actually making possible anything I do.

With such an outlook we must reflect on the whole Creation: we must see it as ex nihilo. Our realization must be concrete to such a point that if we were awakened from our sleep and asked "Do you see the Creation as ex nihilo?" we must straightaway answer "Yes."

Nature testifies to this! If it were not true, what forces an apple tree to grow apples? What is the power of understanding in man? What is man's power of speech? His skin, bones, and blood? Who is speaking? There is speech and there is someone who makes this intangible power of speech. What is this power? Is it not a supreme power from the One Who created man and Who continually implants in him the power of speech through His goodness and desire to constantly renew the work of His creation?

When I look at a tiny worm crawling on the ground, how it crawls, and in general, how out of rot and decay came this creature that creeps around, I ponder from where the worm received its power of life. Is this not a real ex nihilo creation? Do we need any more proof? Can it be understood differently?

I see a tiny ant. Where is its source of existence? This ant runs to and fro and has intelligence and understanding to such a degree that Shlomo Hamelech, in his wisdom, told man: "Go to the ant, you lazy person, see her ways and become wise" (Mishlei 6:6). Man! Man! Study this ant creeping on the ground!

After understanding all this, can there be any doubts left? Everything is so crystal clear!

When a person lives in this world thinking that wherever he is, the Creator of the World is there too, and when in everything he sees the Creator of the World, undoubtedly his behavior is altogether different. We must truly feel as if we are walking with the King. When one walks with the King, walking takes on an elevated significance and even a sublime dimension.

This situation, of course, obligates fitting behavior. A person cannot do things that do not correspond to Hashem's desire, or acts unfitting the behavior of someone accompanying the King. This motif is explained in the Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim (III,52) and cited in the Ramo (Orach Chaim 1:1).


In addition, the reality of the Creator's existence, the Creator Who constantly sends us abundance through His goodness and kindness — this reality obliges us to value the Creator's will, to be appreciative, and to adapt our behavior to what the Torah requires and guides us towards. In particular concerning character traits, we must learn from the Torah and implant within ourselves the correct behavior that the Torah wants to teach us.

Through the revelation of HaKodosh Boruch Hu at Mount Sinai the Torah teaches us a magnificent example of behavior. We learn in the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 2:10), "`He saw, and behold, the bush was burning in the fire from amidst the bush' (Shemos 3:2). And why did HaKodosh Boruch Hu reveal Himself to Moshe in such a way? Since HaKodosh Boruch Hu wanted to talk to Moshe and not to disturb him from his work, He showed him that thing [the bush] so that he [Moshe] would turn his head and see it, and afterwards He talked to him. You find that in the beginning `An angel of Hashem appeared to him,' and Moshe did not go. After he stopped his work and went to see it, immediately `Hashem called out to him from amidst the bush.'"

Chazal have revealed to us that the whole appearance of the burning bush was only to attract Moshe to think about it so that HaKodosh Boruch Hu could later speak to him. Moshe was occupied in his work, shepherding the sheep of Yisro, and Hashem did not want to stop him from his work unless Moshe himself would stop.

How stimulating this is! HaKodosh Boruch Hu is ready to speak to Moshe and appoint him the nation's leader, over all of Klal Yisroel. He will be the one who will redeem them and take them out of Egypt. However, since Moshe is currently engaged in his work, Hashem does not want to disturb him and stop him! This is an outstanding lesson of how we should behave towards each other.

We learn an additional lesson, an inspiring one, from the episode of Moshe being appointed as ruler. HaKodosh Boruch Hu commands Moshe: "And now go, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring My people, bnei Yisroel, out from Egypt" (Shemos 3:10). Moshe argues for seven days with Hashem and expresses his unwillingness to be His shaliach. During the entire time HaKodosh Boruch Hu tries to convince him to undertake the mission, but Moshe refuses and says: "Please send by the hand of him whom You will send" (4:13) until Hashem becomes angry at him and Moshe accepts the mission.

The Yalkut writes: "You think that perhaps Moshe hesitated to go. What he did was only to honor Aharon. Moshe said, `Before I was born Aharon, my brother, would prophesy to them. If I now encroach upon my brother's area it would disturb him.' For that reason Moshe did not want to go. HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to him: `Your brother Aharon is not only not disturbed by this but will be happy. The proof is that he is coming towards you to greet you, as is written: `And behold, he is going out towards you, and when he sees you he will be happy' (Shemos 4:14)." Not in his mouth [is he happy] but in his heart — in his heart even more than in his mouth.'"

Listen carefully to what is written here: Klal Yisroel are suffering under Egyptian bondage, are tormented by hard labor and backbreaking work. Every day Pharaoh slaughters three hundred Jewish children and bathes in their blood. Jewish children are cast into the river. What a catastrophe! HaKodosh Boruch Hu sees His people's suffering and hears their cries. He commands Moshe: "And now go, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, bnei Yisroel, out from Egypt." But Moshe refuses to go! For seven days he deliberates with the Creator about his mission and remains adamant. Why? Because he does not want to become greater than his older brother, who was already a novi for bnei Yisroel in Egypt.

Moshe was afraid that Aharon, his brother, would be insulted. He was afraid that Aharon would be annoyed, and therefore he refused to go. He knew that even the best and most helpful thing in the world, like saving Klal Yisroel from its persecutors, would not succeed when someone is insulted by its being carried out. If there is any insult done it is impossible that he will succeed!

The Torah narrates this story to teach us this halochoh. Moshe's argument is also Torah! It comes to teach us a lesson. It comes to instruct us how to be careful of another's honor. We should not, chas vesholom, hurt other people, and if we do insult someone it is impossible for us to succeed. People cite in the Vilna Gaon's name that a person who studies in a house in whose walls a stolen nail is driven, will not succeed in his Torah study!

The Torah teaches us many pivotal lessons from the parshiyos of yetzias Mitzrayim. Our duty is to study them prudently. The Torah teaches us foundations of emunah: to believe, to be aware, and to see the Creator in everything. The Torah teaches us that a person is always being examined by Hashem, Who supervises all that He created. Here too the Torah teaches us the magnitude of responsibility for everything a person does, for whatever he speaks, for whatever he thinks.

Every act a person does makes an impression that lasts for generations and generations — both for good and, chas vesholom, for bad. The impression is so profound, and so thin, as thin as a hairsbreadth, that a person cannot grasp the extent of his deeds. He cannot imagine how they are seen and judged by the Creator, Who never forgets and takes everything into account.

Similarly, when a person studies diligently he undoubtedly influences his surroundings, and this will be a zchus for him for generations afterwards. The same is true for evil, chas vesholom. If a person is mevatel Torah this will be considered a chovah for generations and he will be punished for generations. Especially concerning character traits a person must be extremely careful, since the influence a person has on others is tremendous.


I ask you to remember what I have said. Each person should himself reflect on these parshiyos and the lessons written in them. When we study them in depth we understand the obligation to sacrifice ourselves for these truths, which are incomparable in their worth.

When we are speaking about mesiras nefesh we must know that the truth is that we find people having mesiras nefesh even for foreign and evil ideologies. I remember, when I was in Russia, there was a period in which millions of people fought together with the Communists even though they were actually endangering their lives. These men believed in socialism and were prepared to act with mesiras nefesh for their opinion and their ideology. They were ready to be imprisoned or thrown in jail for supporting socialism. We must use this implanted trait of mesiras nefesh for meaningful aims, for the definite truth called Torah.

A person who does not lie to himself believes in this truth. It is a pure and evident truth, with no lack admixed within. We are witnesses that this Torah was given from Heaven. For it and only for it should we act with mesiras nefesh.

The truths of the Torah that were given by the Creator, and not, chas vesholom, invented by a historian sitting in his room. The clearness of the Torah that was passed down to us through the generations that teach us of the world's creation (something that even children among us know) — all these obligate us to cling to this source of life and not, chas vesholom, substitute for it "broken cisterns" that cannot contain this lucid truth.

The lucidity of the Torah is itself strong enough to attract a person and capture his heart, leading him to embrace the Torah and cling to what is written in it.

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