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Tzvi Moshe On Parshas Vaera

In this week’s Parsha we begin the processes that bring the Jews towards redemption. Hashem tells Moshe “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim,” ‘And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.’ When we delve deeper into what Sivlos really are, then B’Ezras Hashem we will come out seeing how it is both the essence of, and the end of slavery; and through that we will also learn how to liberate ourselves.

Our Passuk says “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” and goes on to list the other forms of Hashem saving us including “V’Hitzalti Eschem Mei’Avodasam ‘I will save you from your servitude.’ “V’Gaalti Eschem B’Zroa Netuya” ‘I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.’ And “V’Lakachti Eschem Li La’Am” ‘And I will take you for a nation." And with this we arrive at four separate expressions of redemption: V'Hotzeisi, V'Hitzalti, V'Gaalti, V'Lakachti

But after listing these four aspects the Passuk continues: “Vidatem Ki Ani Hashem Elokeichem HaMotzie Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” ‘And you will know that I am Hashem your God who was Motzei you, who took you out from the Sivlos of Mitzrayim.” Seemingly this Passuk is odd. This type of getting to know Hashem is directly connected to the first of the four expressions we mentioned above. The previous Psukim listed of four different type of ways Hashem will save us, yet we will only know Him through the first of those four? Why do we only arrive at a knowledge of Hashem in the manifestation of V'Hotzeisi? As the one who took us out from the Sivlos. What about the others? Let’s address some other issues and come back to this at the end.

The term Sivlos is used elsewhere as well. The first time that Moshe and Aharon attempt to speak to Pharoh (5:1-5) they request that Pharoh give the Jews a small vacation to go and serve Hashem in the desert. Not only does Pharoh say no, but he also takes issue with the fact that Moshe and Aharon approached him in the first place, ‘Why do want to disturb the masses from their work? Lichu L’Sivloseichem! Get back to your own work!’ Pharoh ordered Moshe and Aharon to get back to their personal Sivlos, their personal burdens. Rashi is driven to point out that Pharoh was talking about their personal chores in their homes. Afterall, Moshe and Aharon were part of Shevet Levi who were not subject to the slavery.

The Nesivos Shalom asks on Rashi, how can Lichu L’Sivloseichem be a reference to chores around the house? Silvos means burdens and subjugation! We say it in connection to slaves, not regarding taking out the garbage.

The explanation is that the slavery of Mitzrayim was two-fold. We know about the backbreaking physical labor, but there was a second aspect. This is the Ruchani, spiritual enslavement. What does this mean? Mitzrayim is the source of all Tumah, it is the symbol of all spiritual contamination and impurity. The Tumah of Mitzrayim permeates the air, it settles in the dirt and makes it’s way into the minds of all those who are present in the land. There was nowhere to turn, no escaping its influence. It even entered the home-life of the Jews.

When Pharoh said Lichu L’Sivloseichem, he was talking about the spiritual aspect. He was talking about the burden of the inescapable effects of Egyptian culture. Pharoh says to them, “Go home! There is plenty of spiritual suffering for you there.”

What comes out of what we have said is that real Sivlos, real burden and subjugation comes as a result of being stuck in a lifestyle I cannot escape. Just like we saw in Egypt; It can get me in the craziness of the outside world, and even make creep into my personal space. When my surroundings are not what I want them to be, and I feel helpless - this is Sivlos, this is real Galus.

Now that we have established that Sivlos is the essence of suffering, we can see how it also the root of the way to bring about suffering’s end. The Sfas Emes totally redefines the Passuk in an unbelievable way: “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” So far our translation has been, ‘And I will take them out from under the burdens of Egypt.’ While Tachas literally means ‘Under’, it is used elsewhere in Torah to mean ‘Due to’ or ‘Because.’ Secondly, the word Sivlos, ‘Burdens’ has the same root as the word Lisbol, meaning to endure, it is also connected to Savlanus, meaning ‘Patience.’ He goes on to say that we can read the following into the Passuk: “V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” ‘And I will take the Jews out because of the point of their patience for Egypt.’ If they are fed up, then I’m taking them out.

Let’s explain the words of the Sfas Emes: In last week’s Parsha it says (2:23) ‘VaYizaku’ the Jews made an outcry, and then in the very next Passuk, only after they mamesh cried to HaKadosh Baruch Hu did He begin to set in motion the events that led to their freedom. The Jews were fed up with the spiritual situation that they could not escape, so they cried out, they protested, they said ‘We’ve had enough!’, and with that Hashem began to take them out. The whole Geula can only begin once we recognize and protest the fact that there is a problem with our spiritual situation. This has to come from our efforts.

Let’s remind ourselves of our original question: If the Psukim list ‘V’Hotzeisi, Hitzalti, Gaalti, and Lakachti’ then why do the Psukim continue “Vidatem Ki Ani Hashem ELokeichem HaMotzie Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim” ‘And you will know that I am Hashem your God who took you out from the Sivlos of Mitzrayim.”

Now we can answer our original question beautifully! We can only really relate to and know that which we forge for ourselves! And thus it was our protest that brought about V’Hotzeisi Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim. It is this that leads us to Vidatem Ki Ani Hashem ELokeichem HaMotzie Eschem MiTachas Sivlos Mitzrayim. The relationship in which I get to know Hashem is only going to be the one that I forged for myself.

The fact that I can stand up for what I truly believe, in a society that screams the total opposite is the beginning of my own personal redemption.

All to often I ask myself, ‘What can I do to change my reality?’ If I’m stuck in this situation, what can I do if I feel helpless? The answer is that I can choose not to accept it! The moment that I protest to myself that my current situation is not holy and is not getting me closer to Hashem, then I’ve already taken the most important step to getting myself out. I just need to remind myself to take that first step, the one that can be the hardest.

It’s very easy to get caught up in status-quo. To just go along with life and not stand up for myself is the easiest way out. But when I look around the world it become so obvious to me that taking the back seat will never solve anything. It is my ability to be aware of my surroundings that separates me from the rest of the world. The world moves at such a rapid-fire pace that I'm never never given a moment to think, the ultimate Lichu L’Sivloseichem. But the moment I tap into my ability to protest is the same exact moment I begin my own personal redemption.

B’Ezras Hashem we should all be Zoche to this. We need to empower ourselves not be okay with things just the way they are. If we can do this there is no doubt we live lives of growth, purity and meaning, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the REDEMPTION!

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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