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5 Nisan 5768 - April 10, 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 II

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 Rambam (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim, Chap. 1) explains at length the chain of events that led up to worldwide idol worship. At its onset, in the times of Enosh, many people mistakenly thought that since Hashem had created the sun, moon, and stars to serve Him, it was proper to extol and honor them. They should be honored just as every king wants those who serve him to be honored. People began building temples for the heavenly hosts and brought sacrifices to them. Later false prophets began lying and claiming that a star had spoken to them and said "Worship me!" until eventually Hashem was forgotten by the masses. Only individuals such as Chanoch, Mesushelach, Noach, Shem and Ever, knew of Hashem's presence, until Avrohom Ovinu — the pillar of the world — was born. After Avrohom was weaned he began thinking day and night, contemplating everything around him, studying the exact and miraculous ways of the heavens and earth, until he realized that the world cannot be without a ruler, that the palace must have a master. This is the substance of what the Rambam says.

This must be explained. Actually it is possible for a palace not to have a current owner. Although a palace must be made by someone, after it is finished the owner can abandon it and then there will be no one taking care of it. Avrohom Ovinu, however, understood that this palace, that is, the world, cannot exist unless it has a permanent master. If there is no master for this palace, if there is no Creator of the World who always renews His creation ex nihilo (yeish mei'ayin, creation from complete nothingness), there is, chas vesholom, no Creation. This is explained by the Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 1:1): "Everything that exists in the heavens and the earth and all that is between them exists only because of the truth of His existence. If it He did not exist, then nothing else would exist."

The one-time, original creation ex nihilo by HaKodosh Boruch Hu does not necessitate that the next moment the Creation will also exist. Each moment the creation is renewed through Hashem's goodness. The fact that the sun follows its orbit on one day does not necessitate its doing so on the next. Ma'aseh bereishis renews itself every moment through the Creator's constantly reiterated command.

This is the creation's mode of existence, the way that it has been nurtured for thousands of years, in a balanced and permanent order. It is not because it was once created during the Six Days of the Creation that it continues to exit, but only because it is actually being created now — now, too, it is an ex nihilo creation!

We learn this lesson from the splitting of the Yam Suf. At that time the creation's order was changed and the ocean became dry land. This is proof that the existence of the ocean is renewed each moment ex nihilo. When the will of the Creator is to stop the ocean from existing as an ocean and to turn it to dry land, it immediately becomes dry land.

If we want to see this truth we can prove it with what we see with our own eyes. We hold a fruit in our hand, a fruit that grew from this tree here. Does the tree actually have the power to grow such a fruit? What compels the tree's fruits to have their unique shape and nature, unless there is a Ruler over the "palace" who at every moment commands the tree: grow such a fruit.

A person speaks, and because of his intelligence he understands what others speak. What necessitates his understanding? Does the part of the body called the "brain" have the power to give a person understanding? The brain is nothing but a lump of tissue. There is surely a sublime spiritual power constantly giving it the ability to understand.

"Know therefore this day, and consider in your heart, that Hashem is the Elokim in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is no other" (Devorim 4:39). "There is no other" means that "the palace must have a master." The owner must every moment renew the creation ex nihilo. If He does not renew it, the entire universe reverts to null and void. There must be an master of the palace, since if He, chas vesholom, did not exist — nothing else would exist, since the existence of the entire creation is dependent exclusively upon His power and will.

Avrohom Ovinu therefore renounced his generation's mistaken philosophy. If HaKodosh Boruch Hu created the sun and then after being created the sun did not need Hashem's power and constant supervision to exist and fulfill its function, then it would be logical to honor the sun, since the sun is serving us by itself and we enjoy its light. Since, however, this is not true, and the sun constantly needs the Creator's will to renew its heavenly path, the pleasure that we derive from the sun's light is actually not from the sun but from He who is constantly renewing it — Who guides its path and causes the sun always to shine.

This pleasure is thus given to us by the Creator alone. Why should we honor the sun? Does it give us this pleasure?

This can be compared to a father who gave his son money to hand over to someone else. Would we say that the son gave his own money to that person? Surely the father is the one who gave the money. Similarly the whole Creation, by its continuing to exist is, as it were, admitting that there is a Ruler of the Palace, a ruler Who not only created it at the beginning ex nihilo, but also makes it exist every moment.


These principles are taught in a particularly clear way in the parshos of yetzias Mitzrayim. In them it is lucidly revealed to all that the Creator is alone the baal habayis of the world. He constantly causes the world to exist. He supervises all the world's "nature" and has the power to change His command whenever He wishes.

This theme is explained at length by HaRav Chaim of Volozhin in his Nefesh HaChaim (beginning of chap. 3). Chazal write that HaKodosh Boruch Hu is called Mekomo shel olom (the place of the world). R' Chaim explains that the concept mokom mentioned here differs from the usual definition of mokom, meaning a physical place.

Take, for instance, a vessel put on top of a table. In such a case the vessel has its own reality and the table only holds it so that it does not fall and break. The existence of the universe is not like that. HaKodosh Boruch Hu is not a mokom for the Creation so that it will not fall and be destroyed. Rather, the very existence of all the worlds, in every moment, is only through Hashem. The Word of Hashem renews every day the maaseh bereishis. Through His utterance the heavens are constantly being created. If, chas vesholom, Hashem were to remove the Dvar Hashem for just one moment and withdraw His will from generating the Creation, the world would immediately turn to nothing.

R' Chaim goes on (3:3) to explain that this theme is expressed in the posuk, "Know therefore this day, and consider in your heart, that Hashem is the Elokim in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is no other," and also in the posuk, "To you it was shown in order to know that Hashem is the Elokim. There is none beside Him" (Devorim 4:35). These pesukim are readily understood literally: there is nothing at all besides Hashem, in any particular point in all the worlds, both higher and lower. Only the essence of His unity fills the whole world. Anything created, even though it is tangible to our senses, is nevertheless not really independent. Relative to Hashem, it is as if nonexistent, as if before being created.

A person who lives with such a thought of "there is none besides Him" understands that evil is nonexistent. Since everything is worthless besides Hashem and "there is none besides Him," only the Creator of the World fills and encompasses the universe. Just as a person's right hand would not cause damage to his left hand, it is impossible for a person to be harmed. This point is told us by the posuk, "evil shall not dwell with you" (Tehillim 5:5). Evil cannot exist at all, since it is not an entity. Besides Hashem nothing exists, and His unity envelopes the whole creation.

Sometimes things will happen to a person which seem to him evil. Nonetheless, all these do not, chas vesholom, harm a person, but were designed for the aim that the Supreme Intelligence wanted. We do not always understand it. Our duty as created creatures is to believe that this is so.

We must therefore "make a brocho on the bad just as on the good" (Brochos 54a). We find this in Dovid Hamelech, who said, "Of kindness and justice do I sing" (Tehillim 101:1) — whether when the Creator is doing kindness to me, or when He brings upon me Heavenly Justice — in both cases I will always sing to Him.

Now we can understand better the posuk, "In all their affliction He was afflicted" (Yeshayohu 63:9). Since "there is none besides Him," when Yisroel are enveloped with suffering the Shechinah suffers with them too — "He was afflicted." R' Meir (Sanhedrin 46a) remarked, "When a person has sorrows the Shechinah says, "My head is heavy, my arms are heavy" (see Rashi).

However, to reach a true and clear recognition of these matters we must contemplate with real depth and not superficially. Only then can we grasp and see truly the degree of "there is none besides Him."

Hashem rules over everything: He is the Creator, the ruler of the world, and He makes the entire universe exist. He gives power and being to the whole Creation. He gives power to all of the creatures to function. He gives a person power to understand and can remove that power from a person. He and only He: none exists besides Him.

End of Part II

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