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Saturday, January 23, 2021
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It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely scenario than the one described for us in the Torah as to the process of redemption of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery. We can readily understand a personality of holiness and tranquility such as Aaron becoming the hero and redeemer of the holy people of Israel. We could also easily understand that the redemption could come from negotiations and the recognition by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, that it was in their best interests to allow the Jewish people to end slavery and let the Jew leave. Yet, that certainly is not the way the Torah presents this story for us. Instead, the redeemer is an unlikely figure who was not even part of the Jewish story for approximately half of his lifetime. Not only that, he is a wanted man, and a persecuted individual who risked his life on behalf of the Jewish people, but in fact was betrayed by Jews themselves. And he is a reluctant redeemer, telling the Lord to try to find someone else to do the job, for he feels that he is not capable sufficiently to fulfill the task at hand. Heaven disregards all his complaints and accepts none of his excuses. Heaven is aware of all human shortcomings, and, nevertheless, assigns great tasks to individuals to fulfill, irrespective of the inadequacies that they may feel abound within them. Moshe is the most humble and modest of all human beings. Nevertheless, he is not allowed to be humble and self-effacing at this moment. We see Moshe in his most aggressive and assertive mode when speaking to the Pharaoh. For when the time comes to redeem the Jewish people, one cannot be fainthearted, passive, and subservient any longer.

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In our time, over the past century, the redemption of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles to our ancient homeland, the establishment of the State of Israel and the revival of Torah values and study in the Jewish world all have occurred in a most unusual fashion. The logical odds against this happening were and are enormous, but, nevertheless, it has happened in front of our very eyes. Perhaps, we would have chosen to have different leaders, and a different series of events and policies that could have brought all this about. But it is well known that Heaven mocks all our pretensions and predictions. The prophets of Israel have clearly told us that our redemption is a certainty, and it will occur. The specifics of how it will happen was never spelled out for us in detail. The Jewish people will be rebuilt in our ancient homeland, the Land of Israel, and we see that this is happening in our days. We are taught that the wonders that we shall see and experience in this final redemption will outdo even the wonders and miracles that marked our exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moshe over three millennia ago. Experiencing Jewish life is not for the fainthearted, the doubters nor the weak willed. That is only one of the many insights and lessons that we can derive from the Torah reading of Shemot.


Rabbi Berel Wein is senior rabbi of Beit Knesset HaNassi in Jerusalem and director of the Destiny Foundation.

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