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Why did Hashem send ten plagues upon Par'oh and his wicked people, to get them to free the Children of Israel from bondage? Surely the Almighty could have dealt them His mightiest blow right at the start and brought them to their knees immediately.
The answer is that Hashem was building the foundations of the Jewish Nation, right there in Egypt. From every plague, the Jews' Belief and Faith in Hashem were fortified. It was this solid Belief and Faith which would help them be strong against all of their foes, and withstand all trials and tribulations, for thousands of years, until the Final Redemption.
I remember the first time I went fund raising for the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Suffern, which I had been privileged to establish together with the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim ztvk"l, Reb Gershon Zaks z"l. My uncle took me to a rich man who was a big supporter of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Flatbush. He was not an observant fellow and he strongly believed in the Socialist ideals of the then Soviet Union.
I was very young, naive and inexperienced, and I had no idea how to address the formidable figure in whose lavish home I was sitting and from whom I had hoped to get a few hundred dollars (which was a lot of money in those days). I showed him a picture of the beautiful campus which included a large wooded area. When he saw it, he began to scoff and suggested that I have the students learn how to chop down some trees and become self-sufficient; then we wouldn't have to beg for donations. This was his opening to begin a tirade about the importance of work as opposed to the waste of sitting and studying in universities and yeshivas. To prove his position, he began to describe how he had made his own fortune solely due to the power and strength of his own hands. No one had helped him, he said, and he certainly had never turned to G-d or anyone else expecting assistance. He knew that his success depended upon him and him alone, and he worked hard to get to where he was.
As the fellow went on and on, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. I knew that what I was hearing was diametrically opposed to what the Torah teaches a Jew to believe. As a matter of fact, there is an entire chapter in the Torah which addresses the very person I was meeting with:
Lest you eat and be satisfied, and you build good houses and settle. And your cattle and sheep and goats increase, and you increase silver and gold for yourselves, and everything that you have will increase. And your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery. Who leads you through the great and awesome Wilderness -- of snake, fiery serpent, and scorpion, and thirst where there was no water -- Who brings forth water for you from the rock of flint. Who feeds you manna in the Wilderness, which your forefathers knew not, in order to afflict you and in order to test you, to do good for you in your end. And you may say in your heart, "My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!" Then you shall remember Hashem, your G-d - that it was He Who gave you strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant that He swore to your forefathers, as this day (Devarim 12-18).I knew that I was hearing heresy, and I wanted to tear my garments, but I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to tear them on the left side or the right. I wanted to just get up and run away and leave this man with his warped Ideals to enjoy his wealth and himself without allowing him to poison others with his thoughts. I was very sorry I had come to him in the first place.
Although I had answers for all of his arguments, and I had spoken about it myself many times to students in yeshiva, I didn't feel that I should be arguing the point with a man of stature who was three times my age. So I just let him go on and on and hoped he would stop soon so that I could leave. I had long ago abandoned any hope of getting even a penny from this opponent of Hashem and His Torah. Actually, I wondered why I had been told that he is one of the bigger supporters of the Mirrer Yeshiva. It didn't seem to make any sense at all.
When he finally finished, the fellow concluded by saying, "So, therefore, I don't have much money for you." With this, he stood up, went into the other room, and came back with five hundred dollar bills which he placed in my hand, counting them out loud, one by one, as he did, and seemed to enjoy very much giving them to me. Then, his tone softened and he said to me, "Please forgive me for speaking to you like an Apikorus (a heretic). I like to do that some times. But I'm only able to so with people like you and my Rabbi, because you are both soft and you let me speak. But when Reb Shraga Moshe Kalmanowitz (zt"l), the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, is here, I cannot speak this way because he does not let me. He came to me before Rosh Hashanah, and began saying that the world is now becoming 5,731 years old. I interrupted him and said that I had just read in the newspapers that some archeologists had found some fossils which prove that the world was millions of years old. He banged his fist on the table and shouted, 'The world is 5,732 years old. Not a day more and not a day less!' How could I possibly argue with a man with such confidence and conviction?"
I left the house with much more than $500. I learned how important it was to be confident in what we believe and not to be afraid to present the true teachings of the Torah, in loud and clear terms, to everyone; even to those who seem to reject or doubt them. It is what they expect of us, and it is what gains their respect, not their ridicule.
As we read through the parshios which tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, our own Belief and Faith should be fortified more and more, and then we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network