The True Life

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Va'eira

Slavery. We view it as something biblical, something very far away. Yet, we don't have to go back to Egypt to find slavery. Today, in the year 2003, there are twenty seven million slaves in the world. There are over a million slaves in Sudan . The definition of a slave – one who labors without wage under the threat of violence. Twenty seven million slaves! Slave life is endless labor, food almost fit for animals, brandings, floggings, rape and amputation for offenses. Slavery exists in every country in the world except Antarctica !

If you wish to understand the situation of the Jews in Egypt , if you want to understand   you don’t need to go to the Midrash, it’s on CNN, the NY times and the Internet.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Jewish / Egyptian situation. G-d instructs Moshe to plea with Pharaoh to let the Jews out of Egypt for three days of prayer. Why doesn’t G-d tell Moshe to tell it like it is? Who wants three days of freedom? We want freedom forever! What was the point of minimizing the request? If G-d and Moshe are going to show their stuff why not go for broke?

The reason for this was not for Pharaoh’s sake but for our sake. This request was for the sake of the Jewish people. I have a hunch that in our hearts we thought Egypt would be okay. We thought Pharaoh would mellow and that he would ease off. We thought that if we would obediently work, things would get better. Maybe this Pharaoh is not so bad. Maybe this golus will turn into a geulah. This is a mistake that the Jews and every other nation have made over and over again throughout history. People, in their individual lives, make this mistake over and over again.

G-d said, lets make a point. Let’s see what happens if we ask Pharaoh for just a small, reasonable request – a request that no human, moral leader can deny. Let’s see what happens. So Hashem instructed Moshe not to ask for freedom but to ask for a few days off. Three days in the desert. When Pharaoh said no – we didn’t prove something to the Egyptians, we proved it to ourselves. It was at that moment that we realized that we really are slaves!

It reminds us of Oslo . In our hearts we all thought and hoped, that if we just give back a little bit of land we will live in peace with our surrounding neighbors. We offered half the country and ninety percent of the Old City . Not only did the Pharaoh not accept the offer – he began a new Intifada. So we proved to ourselves that it is not about land, it is about our very existence and the existence of a Jewish State. We needed to know that.

In order for the Jews in Egypt to pick up and march to freedom we needed to know that we were slaves. Two hundred and ten years of work and Pharaoh couldn’t even give us a holiday weekend.

I think it was Rav Moshe Feinstien that told the story about his childhood in Russia . Reb Moshe was born in a city called Kubrin. It was considered inadvisable to study Torah in a public place. So the Rebbe would study with them in a dark basement. Their source of light, a  single candle. Reb Moshe recalled how a new student  entered the room, was given a Chumash and asked to read. The boy started to cry. He couldn’t see, it was too dark, how could he possibly read, out loud? One of the boys in the class comforted him and told him not to worry. It will get light! The longer you stay here the lighter it will get. At was at this moment that the Rebbe decided to teach a lesson that Reb Moshe never forgot. “It will not be come light in here. You will get used to the dark, you may even make peace with it but it won’t become light. Not until we are out of this basement. Not until there is a geula.

As Jews we should never look to make peace with darkness. In our Land and in our lives we must never get used to the dark. We pray for true light, for clarity and for peace for us and for the whole world.

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