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Weekly Chizuk

PARSHAS VAERA

THE CONTRADICTIONS IN HASHEM'S WAYS

God spoke to Moshe and said to him, "I am Hashem. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya'akov as Kel Shak-kai, but with My Name Hashem I did not make Myself known to them." (Shemos 6:2-3)

Digested from my sefer Trust Me! adapted from a talk given by Moreinu v 'Rabbeinu Ha-Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, ztzuk"l.

At the end of parshas Shemos, the Torah records that Moshe Rabbeinu appeared before Pharaoh and relayed Hashem's command: "Send My people out so that they may celebrate before Me in the wilderness" (Shemos 5:1). Moshe expected that his mission would have immediate success. However, instead of capitulating before the Divine will, Pharaoh became very recalcitrant. Not only did he refuse to let the Jews leave, he increased their workload, claiming: "They are lazy! Therefore, they cry out, saying, 'Let us go, and we will give offerings to our God.' Let the work be heavier upon the men and let them engage in it; and let them not mouth false words" (Shemos 5:8-9).

A delegation of Jewish foremen approached Pharaoh and begged him to have mercy, but he ignored their pleas. As the disconsolate group left Pharaoh's presence, they encountered Moshe and Aharon and complained that, instead of helping them, their interference had only made a bad situation worse. In desperation, Moshe appealed to Hashem and cried out: "My Lord, why have You dealt ill with this people; why did You send me? From the time that I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, it has become worse for this people, and You did not save Your people!" (Shemos 5:22-23).

The reply from Hashem was forthcoming: "And God said to Moshe, 'Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh... I am Hashem. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya'akov as Kel Shak-kai, but with My name Hashem I did not make Myself known to them'" (ibid. 6:1-3). Commenting on Hashem's reply to Moshe, Chazal relate (Sanhedrin 111a):

The Almighty said to Moshe, "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, 'and You did not save 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]."

Why did Chazal so severely castigate Moshe Rabbeinu for his statement? Moshe Rabbeinu had received a direct command from the Almighty to go to Egypt and redeem the Jews. He was under the impression that Hashem would be with him and everything would proceed smoothly and quickly. He was convinced that no harm could result from his actions. However, he soon found that because of his actions, the situation of the Jews had deteriorated to an intolerable level - and it was all his fault. The Jews' suffering became so overwhelming that it was almost impossible to come to grips with it. Especially since Hashem's initial relationship with Moshe was open and revealed but subsequently deteriorated into a concealment of the Divine Hand.

Moshe's question was not simply about why the Almighty was acting in a concealed fashion. Rather, he was questioning the apparent contradictions that had arisen as a result: "If You wanted to take Your people out later, why did You have me come now? I shouldn't have been sent to Pharaoh until it was the right time! My actions on Your behalf have resulted in the very opposite of what You intended. A doctor can give the patient a bitter medicine, but at least it heals him! But in this case, it only aggravated the illness! If the time of the redemption hasn't yet arrived, why did You send me prematurely (which only made the situation worse)?" (see Ramban). Moshe was disturbed by the contradictions engendered by the concealment, and not by the concealment itself.

One Question - Or Thousands?

The Chofetz Chaim once noted that the world doesn't understand how we can believe in God. Moreover, people ask, who created the Almighty? It may seem all one question. But in reality, one who doesn't believe in Hashem has not one question, but thousands. Who made the sun and the moon; who made the stars; who made man? And the list goes on and on.

The Chovos Ha-Levavos writes that there are people who claim that the world did not come into existence by design. Rather, a chain of fortuitous events caused everything to come into being. This is a preposterous idea that immediately evaporates when exposed to the light of reason. How can an intelligent person believe such a thing?! Upon seeing a water wheel, for example, which was obviously constructed to facilitate irrigation, could a person possibly imagine that it came into existence by chance?

I have seen an article from Reader's Digest by a Dr. Sarnoff, who served as the president of the American Academy of Science at the time the article appeared. He writes that, based on his scientific knowledge, there are seven reasons why he believes there is a Creator. The informed opinion of such an eminent scientist is not to be lightly dismissed.

Look at the millions of galaxies that comprise the heavens, each of which encompasses billions of stars. Reflect upon the clockwork precision with which the universe runs. Closer to home, consider the development of a fetus, as it grows from a few tiny cells into a fully developed infant. How much wisdom there is in nature! When a person contemplates all this, how can he deny the existence of the Creator?

In Sha'ar Ha-Yichud (ch. 5), the Chovos Ha-Levavos writes that all the doubts a person may experience in this area are due solely to the machinations of the yetzer ha-ra. Common sense leaves no room for doubt.

In his Mishneh Torah, the Rambam rules that having emunah is a mitzvah. This means that a child of thirteen is obligated to have emunah. R. Elchonon Wasserman asked how a child so young can be expected to have emunah. Throughout history, R. Wasserman said, several of the world's greatest philosophers and thinkers have grappled with the concept and expressed doubts concerning belief in God. And the Torah expects a thirteen-year-old child to understand such a deep abstraction? He answered that emunah is obvious and simple; it is only the yetzer ha-ra which plants the seeds of doubt. It is within the grasp of anyone - even a thirteen-year-old child - to have emunah. Indeed, it is more to the point to say that it's impossible for the unbiased intellect not to have emunah. It is only the yetzer ha-ra that blinds the eyes and creates denial. To an honest mind, it is obvious that there is a Creator.

However, even a sincere intellect can be disquieted when confronted by apparent incongruity. This happens in the private life of every individual. He feels tremendous conflict and is burdened by the discrepancies he perceives between what is and what he feels should be.

This was the difference between the Avos and Moshe Rabbeinu. The Avos weren't bothered by the contradictions. When Yaakov Avinu complained, he was bothered by the hester panim, and so his statement was labeled as merely "idle." To a person as great as Ya'akov, his emunah should have directed him to overlook the fact that he was being dealt with through hester panim.

On the other hand, Moshe Rabbeinu was bothered by the contradictions. His complaint was, "Why did You send me to take the Jews out, only to make the situation deteriorate through my actions? You sent me to deliver the Jews and then You had me do the opposite!" This was a charge against God's plan. Wherever You Are - Trust Him

A Psalm to David, the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green meadows; He leads me beside refreshing streams. He restores my life; He guides me by righteous paths for His own sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no harm; for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff - they comfort me. (Tehillim 23:1-4)

The following is from Ruach Chaim by R. Chaim Volozhin, commenting on Pirkei Avos 2:4.

David Ha-Melech has used the metaphor of sheep to illustrate true bitachon. The shepherd takes care of all of the sheep's needs, and they are not even aware of what he is doing. So too should a person throw all his burdens on Hashem, with total faith that He will take care of him. This is the intent of David Ha-Melech in writing, "the Lord is my shepherd." He, my Lord, is like a shepherd tending his flock. He makes sure that they always have plenty of pasture, and therefore, "I shall not want."

Even what appears contrary to my desires is in reality for my benefit, as we learn from the flock of sheep. Sometimes a sheep wants to stray from the pastureland and the shepherd prevents it from wandering off. The poor sheep can't figure out why. But the shepherd knows better; and he looks out for the best interests of the flock. They are grazing now at the best and most lush pasture. "He makes me lie down in green meadows." When he makes me stay here, in this place, it is to enjoy the wonderful meadow that is here.

Sometimes the opposite happens. A sheep wants to rest here, but the shepherd won't let it. He leads it further on against its will. This too is for its own good. There is a wonderful stream over there and it has to drink after eating. "He leads me beside refreshing streams." When he leads the sheep away from its comfortable place, the purpose is to bring it to a refreshing stream over there.

So too does the Almighty "pasture" us. When He sees us in an adverse situation, He picks us up and puts us down somewhere else. And when we don't understand what is happening, when we don't understand the hidden good in this, we suffer and complain. But eventually we will look back and see that all of this was done with God's wonderful graciousness.

Sometimes, however, even in hindsight, we can see no good that came out of our situation. It appears totally bad, and seems as if Hashem is just causing us pain. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," it looks as if only the darkness of death surrounds us. Still, "I will fear no harm." What we are probably in need of is some atonement. Hashem merely wants to purify our physical beings which are obstructing our connection to Him. Therefore, "Your rod and Your staff - they comfort me."

We can also explain this last phrase as referring to two types of sticks - one of pleasantness and one of harshness. The pleasant staff is the stick that supports a person as he walks about. The harsh rod is the one with which he punishes his disobedient child. Thus, we can understand David Ha-Melech's statement as meaning "Your rod and Your staff - they [both] comfort me," for I know that both of them are for my benefit.

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).
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff, or change your subscription, please contact: rabbi.e.parkoff@gmail.com


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