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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Va'era

I Am Hashem!

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

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! Because he had gone to Pharaoh to request a short religious holiday, their enslavement had become absolutely intolerable. 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! [Hashem was bemoaning the fact that Moshe had not attained the greatness of the Avos.] 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 denotes the attributes by which I act]… 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 taking place too early, for the Jews had only been enslaved for only 210 years. There were still another 190 years missing before the scheduled geulah. 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 210 years equaled 400 years of "normal" enslavement. (Yalkut Shimoni parashas Beshalach, section 241 states that Krias Yam Suf was only 86 years since Miriam's birth. and a simple calculation bears this out. The servitude probably started before she was born. If we take these 86 years of servitude and double them, we come close to the missing 190 years! The Jews were paid overtime for the servitude!) 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. When Moshe Rabbeinu first came to Pharaoh to commence his role as redeemer, Klal Yisroel were still short of their allotted time. The additional suffering during those few months until Pharaoh started lessening the burden sufficed to make up for the missing years. 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 80 Bochurim Who Stayed in the Yeshivah

From Aleinu L'Shabeach by Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein.

During World War II, when the Nazis were conquering country after country, many people opted to escape to Russia, where they hoped the situation would be better. Many of the yeshivah bochurim in Poland escaped to Russia as well.

Approximately 400 bochurim were learning in the Novhardok Yeshivah in the town of Bialystok at the time. Eighty of these bochurim decided, inexplicably, to remain in Bialystok rather than escape to Russia. R' Yaakov Galinsky, who was one of those 80 bochurim, explained the reason for their refusal to go to Russia. "Russia was the world center of heresy and atheism at the time, and we decided that because one who causes another to sin is worse than one who kills him, it was better for us to stay there, in Poland, rather than relocate to Russia." Essentially, this decision meant that the bochurim preferred to give up their lives rather than expose themselves to spiritual peril. Where else but in Klal Yisrael can you find people like these?

Hashem did not forsake these noble bochurim. Throughout the war, this group of bochurim experienced miracles every step of the way. One of these miracles happened when the Russians invaded Bialystok and announced that all of the yeshiva students in the town should gather in a certain place. Once they were gathered, the Russians loaded them onto trains and sent them far away. The Russians did not bother the other people in the town.

The bochurim were sure that they were being sent to their deaths. For three days and nights they traveled, subjected to horrible conditions. But when they finally stopped at a train station, they heard on the radio that the Nazis had conquered Bialystok and had dispatched all of the local Jews to the death camps.

Had the bochurim remained in Bialystok, they would undoubtedly have been murdered at the hands of the Nazis, like the rest of the Jews in the town. The trains that the bochurim thought were leading them to their demise actually saved them from certain death.

It often happens that a person thinks he knows how he can be saved, but Hashem shows him that only He knows the future. At a gathering of Holocaust survivors that took place in the year 5706/1946, each participant told the story of his personal rescue. The common denominator among all the stories was that each person thought that he could be saved by a certain plan, but in the end every one of them was saved in a totally different way.

The knowledge that Someone is watching over us and directing our steps, and He alone knows what is best for each of us, should bring us boundless joy and comfort. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we know that Hashem is with us.

Gut Shabbos

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