Used to It

“Therefore, say to the Children of Israel: ‘I am Hashem, I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.’” (Shemot 6:6)

Three of the expressions of redemption are mentioned in this verse: “I shall take out,” “I shall rescue,” and “I shall redeem.” Chiddushei HaRim asks: “Why does the passuk begin with ‘I shall take you out’ when, in fact, Hashem first rescued us from hard labor and only then proceeded to take us out from Egypt?”

He answers that when one suffers extreme hardship for an extended period of time, one no longer can assess the difficulties in proper perspective. It is only after the problems are solved and the pressures relieved that one can look back and, in retrospect, understand the true degree of the hardship.

There was once a monarch who wanted to train his son not to be spoiled by the amenities he enjoyed as prince. He sent the youth to live with impoverished peasants and to survive by begging for his daily needs. After a year, the king sent a messenger to ask his son if there was anything he might need from his royal parent.

“Of course,” the son replied. “I need a warm sweater and a good coat.” His response revealed the toll the poverty had taken on the young prince’s value system. His father could provide a palace full of comfort, yet the prince could only think of a simple immediate need. The struggle for survival of the past year blinded him to the depth of his poverty, allowing him to think only about the “next” thing he needed. The Chiddushei HaRim concludes, “When a Jew is asked what he needs, he asks for a raise in salary!”

The Gemara states (Beitzah 16a): “On Shabbat evening (Friday night), Hashem gives the Jew a neshamah yeteirah — additional soul — and on Motzoei Shabbat (Saturday night) it is taken away, as it says in the passuk, “Shabbat va’yinafash — once he ceases from weekday activities, vay avdah nefesh — woe, the soul is lost!”

The Kotzker Rebbe asked: “Why does the Gemara express sorrow when the additional soul arrives on Friday night? It should say ‘vay — woe’ on Saturday night, when the soul leaves!” The Kotzker explains that on the arrival of the spiritual benefit of an additional soul, a person first realizes the spiritually desolate conditions he lives with all week long. During the week a person eats, works and sleeps. One even has some time for tefillah, learning and mitzvot. It is not until Shabbat enters that one feels the low level of existence one was living while involved in material pursuits.

Rabbi Shaul Rubin, zt”l, a Rosh Kollel from Afula, was approached by a prison warden who asked about an inmate who had spent years in prison for failure to deliver a get — divorce — to his wife. The warden requested that Rav Rubin speak to the prisoner to convince him to comply with the Bet Din and deliver the get.

After his meeting, the Rav returned to the warden and said, “This man will go to his grave but will not deliver the document of emancipation to his wife.”

“Is there nothing we can do for this poor agunah?” the warden asked.

“The only possible solution is to give this man his release for a limited time. He has become so used to his incarceration he no longer feels the impact. If we allow him to feel free again, then he will feel the loss his imprisonment causes him to suffer,” Rav Rubin explained.

And so it was — and the woman was freed from her “chains.”

We have been in exile for almost 2,000 years. We no longer can feel the pain and suffering. We don’t feel the loss of the Bet HaMikdash. We are unaware of the daily offerings and the ketoret —incense, or the lighting of the Menorah. We are numb to our condition. When we get around to asking our Father — Our King — for needs, we ask for a warm coat!

Let us release ourselves from our spiritual stupor and feel the pain by pulling back from involvement in the material world and dive into spiritual pursuits — especially learning Torah. When we feel the pain, our sincere cries will be heard and bring us the Final Redemption, speedily and in our days, amen. Shabbat shalom.