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Parashas Va'era

Introduction to the Exodus from Egypt

Excerpt from Trust Me! citing He'aros by Moreinu v'Rabbeinu, Ha-Gaon Ha-Tzaddik R. Zeidel Epstein, zt"l

I Am Hashem!

And Elokim spoke to Moshe and said to him, "I am Hashem." (Shemos 6:2)

Upon close examination, this verse contains an anomaly that demands explanation. Almost at the very beginning it employs the name "Elokim," which signifies midas ha-din - the Divine attribute of judgment, while it concludes with the tetragram- maton, which represents midas ha-rachamim, the Divine attribute of mercy. In order to understand this, let us turn to the statement by Moshe which provoked this verse as a response.

At the end of parashas Shemos (5:22-23), Moshe complained to the Almighty:

My Lord, why have You done evil to this people; why have You sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he did evil to this people, but You did not rescue Your people.

Commenting on this verse, Rashi, citing the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 5:22), adds the following statement to Moshe's complaint: And if You ask, "What concern is it of yours?" I will answer, "Because I am bothered by the fact that You sent me to begin with!"

Moshe Rabbeinu was complaining about the fact that although Hashem had sent him to redeem the Jews, not only were they not rescued, but their situation actually deteriorated instead! If so, what was the purpose of his mission?

The Almighty soundly admonished him for his criticism. Commenting on verse 5:23, the Gemara reports Hashem as saying the following (Sanhedrin 111a):

Alas for what has been lost and can never be found again! How many times did I reveal Myself to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov...yet [when they didn't see the fulfillment of the promises I made to them] they didn't question My ways, nor did they inquire into My name [which reveals My attributes] You, however, asked Me My name at the outset, and now you claim, "but You did not rescue Your people!" [Shemos 5:23] [Therefore,] "Now you will see what I shall do to Pharaoh" [Shemos 6:1]: You shall see the war against Pharaoh, but you shall not see the war against the thirty-one kings [in Canaan].

This reply may have served to rebuke Moshe, but the question he asked still remains. Where do we find the answer to Moshe's query? It would seem that the verse under discussion holds the key. However, at first glance, it is very difficult to discern. We see that in response to Moshe's complaint, Hashem told Moshe His name. This doesn't seem to have any relevance to the question at all! However, upon close examination, we will see that this really did address Moshe's criticism - and in the process, we will understand why the verse starts with midas ha-din and concludes with midas ha-rachamim.

At the bris bein ha-besarim, the Almighty told Avraham Avinu: "Know that your descendants shall be strangers in a foreign land, and they will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years" (Bereishis 15:13). This referred to the exile of the Jewish People in Egypt.

At the time of the Exodus, Uza, the patron angel of Egypt, complained that the redemption was proceeding too early, for the Jews had only been enslaved for 190 years (Yalkut Shimoni parashas Beshalach, section 241), and a simple calculation bears this out. The question is, Why did the Almighty want to hasten the geulah? Seforno answers: Because He saw that the Jewish People had fallen to the forty-ninth level of spiritual defilement, and if He did not rescue them then, it would be impossible for Him to do so later. (See Seforno on Shemos 6:6.) As for His pronouncement they would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, He made the enslavement more difficult than it ordinarily would have been, and the exaggerated servitude that they had to endure for 190 years equaled 400 years of "normal" enslavement. Because of this, the Jews were able to leave Egypt well before the "proper" time arrived. We see from this that the very difficulty of the enslavement was part and parcel of the redemption. Thus, the adversity was actually full of compassion!

This is why the verse begins by stating: "And Elokim - signifying the Divine attribute of judgment - spoke to Moshe," and concludes by saying: "I am Hashem" - which represents the Divine attribute of mercy." The meaning of this is as follows: "I, Whom you look upon as Divine judgment, am really Hashem, the source of compassion. If you delve deeply, you will see that in reality, My every action is merciful and compassionate."

The Wrong Number

The following is from She'al Avicha v'Yagedcha by R. Sholom Schwadron, vol. 2, p. 299.

A noted Torah scholar with whom I'm acquainted once related an amazing story about Divine Providence. He suffers from a certain illness that can be quite dangerous and requires immediate medical attention in the event of an attack. One Friday night, he felt an attack coming on. With great difficulty, he managed to pick up the telephone and call his doctor, whom he assumed was at his house. When the doctor heard what was happening, he assured the man that he was coming to see him right away.

However, before the doctor hung up, he asked the patient, "How did you know that I was at this number?" It turned out that the physician wasn't at his home at all, but at another patient's house.

Incredible! Divine Providence caused this man to dial the "wrong" number - of the home where the doctor "just happened" to be at the time. If he had dialed the right number, the results would have been fatal.

This may be an inspiring story, but it raises a serious question as well. If the Almighty wanted the man to survive, why didn't He just arrange that the man would be spared an attack in the first place? The answer is really quite simple. If things had gone on as usual and the man hadn't suffered an attack, he never would have known how precious he was in God's eyes. By arranging for him to be saved by a miracle, the Almighty demonstrated how much He loved him. This is the essential lesson to be garnered from this story.

The same message emerges from another remarkable incident which took place during the battle for Jerusalem in 1947.

(Actually, it is two stories, for a similar incident took place in the neighborhoods of Shechunas Achve and Batei Naiman.) The Jordanian forces were bombarding the Holy City with artillery fire. Suddenly, a shell hit a gas tank, causing a tremendous explosion. However, immediately after the first shell hit, a second one fell on a nearby water tank. The tank burst, and the gushing water extinguished the fire caused by the first shell!

It's clear that the Almighty could have arranged things so that the first shell would never have hit the gas tank. However, He wanted to show the people there how much He loved them. Therefore, He arranged for the two shells to fall near each other so that the first one would start a fire and the second one would put it out.

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

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Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).

If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him:
shaare.chaim@gmail.com or 732-325-1257

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