June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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If you were trying to convince someone of Hashem, wouldn’t it be better to say He brought the universe into fruition rather than saying He freed us from Egypt? In the first of the Aseret Hadibrot, Hashem says, “I am Hashem, your God, who took you out of Mitzrayim…” How does Hashem taking us out of Mitzrayim show He is God? Secondly, seemingly it would be much more of a compelling statement to say, “I am Hashem, your God, who created Heaven and Earth”! Doesn’t the fact that Hashem created everything from nothing seem like a much more potent proof that He is God?

R’ Elchanan Wasserman (Kovetz Ma’amrim 1) debunks what we might think are standard ways to approach belief in God. At first glance, the concept of a God is abstract and can seem far beyond the realm of our ability to grasp. After all, we can’t see Him, touch Him, smell Him, etc. The senses that we live off of and interact with the world and ourselves are totally removed from the sphere of recognizing God. Hence, one might think that the process of recognizing God requires much rigorous study, proofs, mathematics, philosophical quests, meditation, etc. Truthfully, however, believing and essentially knowing there’s a God is so obvious, it needs none of that. Indeed, the Midrash brings a story of R’ Akiva who was asked by a heretic, “Who created the world?” R’ Akiva said, “Hashem.” The heretic responded, “Prove it.” R’ Akiva retorted back, “Who made the clothes you are wearing? The heretic said, “The tailor.” R’ Akiva said, “Prove it.” In other words, some things are too obvious. Says R’ Wasserman, if you see a house, you know there was a builder. If you see a shirt you know there was a tailor. If you see a world, you know there’s a God. You don’t need much, but just to be rational.

Based on this we can perhaps explain that we wouldn’t really need Hashem to say He is God who created the universe, because the universe itself attests to that. Fine, but what then is the idea of telling us that He took us out of Mitzrayim?

In truth, nature and every facet of creation is a miracle (see Ramban end of Parshat Bo, and Sefat Emet, Behar, תרל”ז). Hence, the only difference between what we think is a miracle versus what we may think is nature is only a figment of habituation and getting used to the status quo. In fact, Chatam Sofer writes that during the 40 years in the desert, many children were born and raised there. For them, manna was natural: Food comes down from heaven—that’s the way things are. But when they came to Eretz Yisrael and saw food growing from the ground, they were shocked and considered it a great miracle for they never saw anything like it before.

Makka after makka—you start getting used to miracles, it becomes like nature. The miracle of leaving Egypt, the splitting of the sea—in fact, in the Haggadah, R’ Akiva states there were a total of 50 plagues in Mitzrayim, and at the Yam Suf there were 250! Thus, it may occur that miracles become almost expected and not unusual anymore. And after a while, the feeling and recognition of something so clearly Hashem’s involvement is no longer so revealing of God.

Hence, Hashem telling us He is God who took us out of Mitzrayim perhaps needs to be stressed since we may easily look back at all the miracles and say it was all natural, as it was so commonplace. Similarly but slightly differently, R’ Yaakov Neiman (Darkei Mussar) as well explains that while the idea of realizing there’s a God is simple and doesn’t take much, as Avraham Avinu recognized Hashem already at the age of 3, the real difficulty that may arise is believing that the results of our actions are solely brought about from Hashem. Moshe was very involved in seemingly bringing miracles into fruition, and one may come to think it was man who caused the exodus. Therefore, Hashem says, “I am Hashem who took you out of Mitzrayim.” Me, and not man. This is a similar idea to the above, for one can only think he or she produces results if one believes he and nature have their own power independent of Hashem.

The knowledge that the exodus was solely Hashem’s causing and not man’s or nature is so critical for avodat Hashem that it’s in the very first of the Aseret Hadibrot. Why is it so important? The exodus was the cornerstone for our eventual relationship with Hashem, as we acknowledge that Hashem took us out from slavery and now we become His servants (see Ramban, Shemot, 20:2). Hakarat hatov derived from the exodus that is felt when reflecting upon Hashem’s kindness, benevolence and love towards us (demonstrated in Mitzrayim and the exodus) is the pillar and driving force of how we are to relate to Hashem (see Chovot Halevavot, Shaar Avodat Ha’elokim, and Sifsei Chaim, Moadim “2,” p. 270-274.). Thus, if one sees the whole exodus as nature or man’s work, the foundation of avodat Hashem is sorely lacking. It then makes sense that the message of the exodus is highlighted right in the beginning of the Aseret Hadibrot, the time of establishing the unification between us and Hashem.

The mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh was given right before we left Mitzrayim. Why? What was so important about giving it then? Sefat Emet (Yitro, תרנ”ח) writes that the message of a new month represents refreshment: A person can get so used to things running on their own, and Rosh Chodesh reminds us that Hashem is taking care of things. Based on this, we can perhaps explain that Hashem gave us Rosh Chodesh specifically then—after so many open miracles and many more miracles to come—to imbue us with the realization that it’s not nature or man, but Hashem.

This can perhaps explain a curious Rashi, who right in the beginning of the Torah asks why the Torah doesn’t begin with Rosh Chodesh since that was the first mitzvah given. We can ask, what’s the question? Isn’t it imperative to start with knowing that Hashem created the universe? However, based on the above, knowing this is obvious. But Rosh Chodesh, which is a consistent reminder that Hashem is running nature and our lives, is not so obvious—and it’s the pillar of our relationship with Hashem. Thus, Rashi asks: The Torah, which has the details of how to serve Hashem, should start with this very idea!

In last week’s parsha, the Jews asked, “Is Hashem in our midst or not?” The same Jews who with their own very two eyes experienced and saw miracle after miracle of untold proportions wonder if Hashem is with them. R’ Henoch Leibowitz (Chiddushei Halev, Beshalach) explains that this goes to show the phenomenon that despite being heavily surrounded by miracles, one can nevertheless become so used to miracles to the point of even losing sight of Hashem.

While it’s natural to see nature as its own force, or man with his own power, the very first of the Aseret Hadibrot can teach that instead of seeing things from an angle of human control or nature, to rather see the world and our lives from a Godly perspective.


Binyamin Benji is a graduate of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He can be reached at [email protected].

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