Saturday, July 02, 2022

This week we end the journey of the Book of Exodus—40 chapters, 12 parshiyot, 1,209 verses. The following is a summary of what we can learn from this journey:

1. We became a nation. The first person to reveal this secret to us is the evil Pharaoh who announces to his people: “Here is a nation!” Until then, we may have felt part of a large family or a group of tribes, but Pharoah, like many of our enemies throughout history, reminded us that we are a special and uniquely united nation. From Hezbollah to Hitler and the antisemitism in America today, in their fight against us, our enemies know very well that we are all united as one nation.

2. A leader doesn’t have to be charismatic. Moshe Rabbeinu, on the stage of history, describes himself as a stutterer, “slow of speech and of a slow tongue and tongue-tied.” In today’s world, would we choose such a leader? We are told that Pharaoh considers himself almost a god who doesn’t admit to needing to relieve himself like other humans, but does so in secret in the River Nile. Then we have Moshe Rabbeinu who isn’t ashamed of his weaknesses and limitations, and because of this he is suited to become such a powerful leader. Our inner qualities are much more important than our external facade. If only we’d remember that at all times.

3. The Exodus from Egypt was known worldwide. It says in the book Netivot Shalom, “man was placed in the world to strive to take himself out of Egypt.” The Exodus was not only a historic event but also an ongoing mission. The message here is that we all constantly need to strive to leave “slavery” for “freedom”—to be subservient only to God and Torah, and not to any other “Egypt.”

4. The Giving of the Torah was the second event recognized globally. After we understood the importance of freedom, we learned how important it was to fill this freedom with meaning. We didn’t leave Egypt just for the fun of wandering in the desert without any responsibilities, but in order to receive the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Viktor Frankl said that next to the Statue of Liberty, there should also be placed a Statue of Responsibility. The Exodus from Egypt is the Statue of Liberty, the Giving of the Torah is the Statue of Responsibility. We fulfill the purpose of freedom with eternal messages: I am the Lord your God, you shall not murder, remember the Sabbath day, and many more.

5. The Mishkan (Tabernacle): this world needs our active mitzvot. This week’s portion, Pekudei, is not the first parsha to talk about the Mishkan. The Book of Exodus contains many verses regarding the building of the spiritual center of the nation in the wilderness. The ultimate aim was not the Exodus from Egypt and the receiving of “gifts” (the splitting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, Manna from Heaven, the water well) but to receive the most precious and important gift—responsibility. To switch from being passive participants to active ones. The heart of the Jewish people is the same today as it always was: to fulfill God’s commandments and to build a “Mishkan” in every place in this world—in our heart, in our house, in our communities and, of course, ultimately, in the Land of Israel.

Chazak, Chazak v’Nitchazek!

By Sivan Rahav Meir


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