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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Shmos

Introduction to Yetzias Mitzrayim

(Based in part on Ohr Yechezkel - Emuna p. 99 by R. Yechezkel Levenstein, zt"l, mashgiach of the Ponevezh Yeshivah)

I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, creates and rules over all creatures, and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything. With this statement, the Rambam begins his Thirteen Principles of Faith. This is the most basic principle: emuna.

If we were to really be honest with ourselves, we would realize that the way we view the world is very far from true emuna. We must try and internalize this first principle so that it becomes part of our daily lives.

He "creates and rules over all creatures": The Almighty created the world entirely by Himself, and no other power played any role. Likewise, He alone is Master of the universe He created, with no partners or helpers.

"He alone made, makes, and will make": The fact that Hashem did everything by Himself implies that He alone still does and will do everything, for He has no helper. If G d would cease His "making," Creation would instantly revert to the nothingness from whence it came. The Almighty alone sustains Creation. Thus He does and will do everything that is necessary to uphold it.

The second principle is Hashem's Unity:

I believe with perfect faith that G-d is One. There is no unity that is in any way like His. He alone is our G-d - He was, He is, and He will be.

I once heard this explained by R. Ya'akov Hillel, Rosh Yeshivah of Ahavat Shalom, Jerusalem. Hashem has two names: the four-letter Tetragrammaton, usually referred to as Hashem (lit. "The Name"), and Elokim. Hashem is referred to as the name of G d's essence, refering more directly to Him than any other name. It is a composite היה, הוה, יהיה [was, is, and will be]. The name Elokim, however, refers to the laws that govern the actual running of the universe. This name has the same numerical value (gematria) as הטבע, "the nature." This name refers to the aspect of G-d that governs the world through the laws of nature, whether physical (physics, chemistry, biophysics, etc.) or supernatural (astrology, witchcraft, etc.). The nations of the world originally agreed that G d created the world. But then, they said, He left it. It was beneath His dignity to involve Himself in its actual workings and personally govern the universe. Mankind is like millions of little ants, not worthy of any attention. However, He set up a grand mechanism - the laws of nature - to run the universe. These laws are self-sustaining and do not require any interference by any deity.

The innovation of Judaism was to combine these two aspects of G-d's being and to realize that Hashem is One. True, He sits in Heaven, on high, in the upper celestial realm. But He looks down upon us and deals with every detail (hashgachah pratis). Yes there are laws of nature. However, Hashem directly governs them and can alter them at will. This was the purpose of the miracles of the Yetzias Mitzrayim - to prove to mankind that Hashem plays an active role in the running of the world and can change the rules at will.

The mitzvos of emuna and bitachon are fundamental to Yiddishkeit. They are the embodiment of these two first principles. Through emuna and bitachon we achieve the purpose of Yetzias Mitzrayim.

In his work Orchos Chaim (section 25), the Rosh writes: A person should trust (bitachon) in G-d with all his heart, and believe (emuna) in His personal supervision.

The meaning of this is as follows: A person is obligated to trust in G-d. However, he first needs to believe in His detailed supervision over everything. Emuna (intellectual and emotional faith) in Hashem's Divine Supervision (hashgachah pratis) precedes bitachon (emuna in practice). It is only after one has acquired emuna that it is possible to attain bitachon.

The Rosh continues: And with this one can acquire a deep understanding of Hashem's perfect unity: by believing that He examines the entire world, observes all of man's ways, and delves into each individual's innermost thoughts and desires. Why must one fully appreciate Divine Providence in order to properly trust in Him? Because one who doesn't believe in the G-d "who took you out of the land of Egypt" (Shmos 20:2) will ultimately not believe in "I am the Lord your G d". And if one does not believe in this, he does not have a proper understanding of His perfect unity, which comprises the virtue of Yisroel over the other nations of the world and is the foundation of the entire Torah.

The Rosh does not mean that without this understand one will become an outright heretic. Rather, the person who doesn't fully appreciate Divine providence will ultimately have his faith shaken. He will be tested by some issue - and quite possibly pass the test. However, it shouldn't have been an issue for him in the first place. For example, a person might be presented with an opportunity to sin in a way that no one will ever find out about. He may momentarily consider giving in to temptation. Then, he will regain control and keep himself in check. Thus, he did pass the test, but - why was this even a test for him? How could he even have contemplated giving in in the first place?! The fact that he did so - even for a second - indicates that he doesn't have a proper grasp of the Almighty's total supervision.

We have lost sight of the fact of Hashem's hashgacha pratis over the entire Creation, and that we have an obligation to subjugate ourselves to His rule. It is vital for us to realize that the more a person thinks he is in control of himself, his actions, and his life, the less he is fit to be called a believer. Emuna in Divine Providence is the very essence of Yetzias Mitzrayim. It was there that the Almighty showed us how, even during the persecution of "and they shall serve them, and they shall afflict them" (Bereishis 15:13), Hashem's hashgachah pratis governed every detail. Everything that took place was the result of a precise reckoning. Thus, when He informed Avraham of His decree, He also said: "the nation whom they shall serve, I will judge" (ibid. 15:14). Similarly, the Torah tells us: "Just as the Egyptians oppressed the Jewish nation, so did they increase and multiply" (Shmos 1:12). G-d's supervision is active even during times of oppression and adversity, for everything is meted out in exact measure - even suffering and affliction. A person doesn't undergo any more than the Almighty wants him to endure. Thus it was His will that, even during the severe oppression of Egypt, the Jewish People were meant to increase and multiply. Hashem doesn't abandon His guidance and hashgachah for even the briefest moment.

In our modern world of technological advances, we have become overwhelmed by the prevalent attitude of materialism. Therefore, Hashem has given us a marvelous imagery of hashgacha pratis. It's called GPS. It knows exactly where you are, where you want to go and it tells you the directions. If you make a wrong turn it immediately adjusts and corrects you. It follows you wherever you go. It never lets you go. GPS = G-d's Personal Surveillance. Our job is to believe in Hashem and trust Him. Everything is in the Almighty's hands and operates according to His Divine Providence. This is the bottom line of Yetzias Mitzrayim. It's the major principle of our faith - to believe that everything is in G-d's hands, and in His hands only. There is nothing besides Him.

Traveling with Bitachon

(She'al Avicha v'Yagedcha by R. Shalom Schwadron, vol. 2, p. 304)

There was a certain young man who lived in Lithuania several years before World War II broke out. In 1935, he received a draft notice from the Lithuanian army. He tried everything he could think of to get a deferment, but none of his efforts were of any avail.

After every attempt failed, he had only one avenue left - to leave the country. With his induction date looming, coming closer with each passing day, he decided to flee to Eretz Yisroel. However, there was one small problem: he only had enough money to reach Egypt. Nevertheless, he said to himself, "Cast your burden upon Hashem, and He will support you" (Tehillim 55:23). Confident that the Almighty would not abandon him, he set out on the journey.

His plan was to make his way to Germany, and from there to travel to a port city somewhere in Europe where he hoped to book passage on a boat going to Egypt. At the German train station, he went to buy a ticket to his next destination. He gave 10 marks to the cashier in the ticket booth, but the man gave him change as if he had paid for his ticket with 100 marks!

When the Jew realized what had happened, he immediately resolved to return the extra change to the cashier, not wanting to transgress the prohibition against stealing from a Gentile. He tried to give the money back, but before he could even get a word out of his mouth, the cashier snapped at him, "Stop bothering me and go away!" Thinking that perhaps the man didn't realize what he was trying to do, he tried to explain what had happened. Incredibly, the cashier became quite hostile and refused to acknowledge what he was saying. "Listen, Jew, what do you want from me? Get away from here!" The cashier then let loose a torrent of insults and curses.

Astounded, he couldn't understand why the ticket clerk was so adamant about not taking the money back. Later, someone explained that in Germany, employers were very strict and unforgiving, and if an employee made even one error, he would very likely lose his job. Therefore, the cashier would rather pay for the loss out of his own pocket than admit that he had made a mistake.

As a result of this incident, he now had enough money to travel to Eretz-Yisroel!

Wishing Everyone A Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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