Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Va'era - Being True to Truth

By: Mrs. Miri Kwalwasser

In Parshat Bo, the intriguing and dramatic story of Egypt's downfall and the Jewish nation's freedom is set in motion. In the beginning of the parsha, Hashem restates His decision to fulfill the promise he made to the Avot and redeem the Jewish people. Moshe Rabbeinu shares this message with the people who are not receptive to his words, "ולא שמעו אל משה מקוצר רוח" The Seforno interprets this phrase to mean that they were unwilling to pay attention to or think about what was being said ( "לא נתנו לב להתבונן . ("

Moshe, feeling discouraged by the people's attitude and reaction to him, doubts his ability to succeed with Pharoah. He says, "הן בני ישראל לא שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה...?" . The commentaries struggle to decipher the logic of this קל וחומר . The Chatam Sofer, as quoted by Rav Yehudah Nachshoni, explains that if the Jewish people show no interest in being redeemed then Pharaoh will certainly not let them go. They were so steeped in their slave mentality and the depraved life style of the Egyptians, that leaving presented an overwhelming change that they were not willing to entertain. However, we know from the previous Parsha that the Jewish people believed in Hashem and that He was going to redeem them as is expressed at the end of their first encounter with Moshe and Aharon ("ויאמן העם"). On the other hand, in the Mechilta, it is stated that it was difficult for them to separate from idol worship. According to this source, the phrase "ויצום אל בני ישראל" (6:13) indicates that Moshe and Aharon commanded the people to stop all idol worship. Unfortunately, this discrepancy between what they believed and the way they behaved is a recurring theme throughout the Chumash.

Yalkut Lekach Tov, while commenting on the above Seforno, claims that most people suffer to some degree from "קוצר רוח" or a contracted spirit. He describes this as a state of heart where one is not willing to internalize the truth which blatantly surrounds him. We all want our lives to be filled with meaning and spiritual growth, but we don't always contemplate the implications of our behavior and how it will affect our inner selves. Perhaps it's because we have no patience to think deeply or because we are afraid of what we might discover about our selves. The many attractions and distractions of the modern world can lead us away from who we ought to be. Our actions and decisions must be guided by the timeless lessons and precepts of the Torah. We learn from our forefathers' mistakes that it's not enough to believe in lofty ideals and values; we must internalize them to our very core.