June 12, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 12, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Kriyat Yam Suf and the Shirah as Paradigms for Our Geulah

Last year, when the Yom Tov of Pesach was looming in our midst, so many were filled with the hope that the pandemic that struck the world in the wake of Purim would come to an end just in time for Pesach. At the very least, we counted upon the moment when we opened the door for Eliyahu, for him to welcome us to join the march to our final geulah. Inspired by our rabbi’s emunah class/support group, we leaned on the association between COVID-19, the “mageifah” that seemed to parallel two pivotal redemptions in our Jewish history: the first, which occurred on Purim, when the Jewish nation was released from the horrific decree of Haman; and the second, when we were redeemed from the bondage of Mitzrayim. For many, the disappointment that followed via the reality of the current pandemic escalated at a frightening pace.

As one would expect, the responses to the topsy-turvy world that we suddenly found ourselves in spanned the entire continuum. Some ignored the advice offered by our medical experts and Torah greats, looking at this challenge as a random act of nature, idly waiting for things to return to normal. Others accustomed themselves to the situation at hand, accepting the directives associated with what became known as the “new normal.” Still others cursed nature or found other variables in assigning the blame for the turn of events in the relatively peaceful life we lived in the relatively comfortable post-Holocaust world, following the debacle of the Holocaust for 70+ years. Yet, when the daily statistics that blasted our psyches almost every morning piled up, the fallout, the physical and emotional pain, suffering and loss became difficult to bear. Yet many hoped, some prayed, and those spiritually inclined leaned on their faith in God and their fellow man. As a result they followed the imposed rules and looked into their hearts and souls in an attempt to right the wrongs within themselves. They also reached out to others, spreading the advice of our rabbis to take the initiative, confident in the truth that if we do our best, Hashem would do the rest in getting us out of this mess! We never expected that nearly one year from the onset of the pandemic we would still be in this bind.

Yet, today, as I write this article, I join the majority excitedly waiting for the second vaccine to free us from the bondage, despite the news of the multiple variants that, for some, put a damper on the ecstasy they were experiencing. This is because those of us who rely on the Torah truths understand that lessons of our “ancient” Torah, that was so far ahead of its time in digging into the depths of our hearts, souls and psyches, offer us hope for an even better future via the improved models of our spiritual and characterological selves that followed in the wake of successfully transcending this latest challenge: knowing that without pain there is no gain, and that shaking us out of our complacency is not a punishment, but a catalyst for growth.

It always amazes me when I see parallels between the concepts, principles and practices in how to live a meaningful and satisfying life reflected in the mandates of the Torah, paralleling the principles, practices and research findings of current psychological theories. History bears testimony to the truth that “there is nothing new under the sun.” From the very beginning, it is in Sefer Bereishit that we are introduced to the beautiful world Hashem created for us. Each parsha is filled with the wonders of our creation and the spiritual and characterological growth of mankind as individuals, families and communities. Yet, I believe that it is in Sefer Shemot that the Torah places an emphasis on the truth that it is via the challenges Hashem sends our way that we realize the beauty in our imperfections that allow us to grow into better versions of ourselves. This is because it is vicissitudes in our lives that challenge us to jump in and actively participate in the spiritual and characterological growth Hashem expects of us. This truth is reflected in every parsha in the Torah. This is because our charge is not only to learn Torah, but to live Torah on a daily basis. In the current sefer we learn that while the times and circumstances we find ourselves in are distant from our enslavement in Mitzrayim, the sense of bondage we currently experience, tied down by the restrictions, suffering the fallout, offer ample lessons from the past that we can lean on if we open our hearts and minds to do so.

As a start, I believe it is critical to recognize that the nature of this servitude, which is one of psychic rather than physical bondage, is our greatest enemy. It is hard to deny that there are a host of distractions that tie us down and distance us from Hashem. If we lean on the treasures in our own backyard, exploring Sefer Shemot, digging up the gold, silver and jewels in the lessons we learn, recognizing that we must redeem ourselves as a prerequisite for the final geulah, the redemption we are all waiting for, we will be well on our way to not only the redemption from COVID-19, but to the redemption of our final geulah. How so?

In a past shiur, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg spoke to the idea that there are two significant parts of “redemption” in the full meaning of the word. In Phase I we are redeemed “from” a place of spiritual and emotional bondage. Yet, if we don’t plan for Phase II, redemption “to” a place of freedom, positioning ourselves into a posture whereby we are no longer enslaved by that which holds us physically, spiritually and/or psychologically captive, unable to breathe, move on and progress, then we are never truly free. In the story of Kriyat Yam Suf the message is loud and clear. Phase II, the redemption to, is a long and circuitous path, and the trajectory is not meant to take a clean, straight line. These are exactly the sentiments the Rav expressed in his seminal work “Kol Dodi Dofeik,” his personal apology for not taking advantage of “aliyat ha’aretz” that we were entitled to after Israel’s independence in 1948. Indeed, after the horrific time in our history, the Holocaust, we won the battle of claiming our land and had full access to the land of our redemption. Yet, only a small portion of our population took advantage of this precious gift even though it most certainly wasn’t a full consolation to those who lost so many. Yet, it was at least a homeland where all of us could find refuge. Still, only a small number of our people took advantage of this gift.

I believe with the fullness of my heart that this pandemic is not a punishment. It is clearly a reminder of the gift that we continue to leave behind. It is nothing more or less than a stark reminder that Hashem wants each one of us to take part in this mission. Logic dictates that the first step is for each of us to figure our personal starting points on this journey. If we buy into these insights, we also know that those who took the first steps of aliyah are far ahead of the game. Yet, since 1948 we have easy access, and it is in our own hands. If we don’t accomplish this we are the perpetrators of our own bondage. Moreover, our Torah also teaches us that each one of us must do his or her part in filling in the missing pieces that are delaying our personal redemptions. It is also clear that COVID-19 could be a paradigm for actuating this portion of the mission. In the case of COVID-19 it is incumbent upon us to follow the mandates such as strict adherence to social distancing, wearing masks and availing ourselves of the vaccines. Yet, as the chosen people, we pledged to also abide by the mandates of the Torah, and this includes each one of us embarking on our personal starting points. As these parshiot teach us, our geulah is not complete until Hashem is no longer homeless—and that will not occur until we are worthy of the last touch, the foundation of our emunah, the building of the Beit Hamikdash, which will afford us the full protection of God from all the ills of the world.

Viewed through this lens, once in Eretz Yisrael, as long as we are not deserving of our Beit Hamikdash, we are only partially redeemed from the full actuation of our geulah, and we have to move on in our personal spiritual and characterological aliyot. Still, for those of us still in chutz la’aretz, our Father, via periodic reminders, is begging us to come home. I for one understand this to mean that the first essential step is to avoid judgment, focus on the positive steps we can take, serve as examples to our fellow brothers and sisters and to the world at large—and accomplish this with simcha and achdut, unity! Most importantly, if we lean on the example in the shirah, it is up to us to realize that it is because we have not taken advantage of all the gifts Hashem sends our way; it is up to us to figure out our personal missions and the overarching mandate for “achdut”—to make it happen.

Given these insights, we come to understand that Hashem did His part in 1948 to release us from our physical bondage. It is now our turn to look into ourselves, figure out our personal missions in this task, and to work with the rest of our people in peace and harmony to complete the task at hand. The good news is that we have our Torah, tefillot and Yomim Tovim, and the support and chizuk of our rabbis and teachers to continue showing us the way. I look forward to continuing to engage in this project of “self-talk” and sharing the steps I plan to take in doing my share in this joint journey with family, friends and readers of this series.

By Renee Nussbaum, PhD, PsyA

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles