Friday, December 24, 2010

Shemos: Knowledge is Power

This week’s Parsha progresses with a dramatic pace. Within the first few verses the entire generation of the tribes die out. With this, a new Pharaoh arises, and immediately the slavery intensely tightens its grip and infanticide ensues as well. Although many years pass, it’s a matter of a few words before we learn about the hidden birth of Moshe Rabeinu. His life is saved, he grows in the palace of Paroh, eventually identifying with his roots, and in a moment of courageousness he strikes a deathblow to an Egyptian in defense of his Jewish brethren which forces him to flee to Midyan. There he meets Yisro and marries Tziporah.

After the Torah sets the stage of Moshe’s character, God decides that the time of redemption has arrived. The Jews cry out and, “VaYishma Elokim El Na’akasam” – And God heard their moaning – “VaYizkor Elokim Es Briso” – and God remembered His covenant with the forefathers – “VaYar Elokim Es Bnei Yisrael” – and God saw the state of the Jewish people.

So God hears the plea of Jewish people. He remembers that they must be redeemed. And He sees the situation, which puts the whole thing in context.

It seems that Hashem had everything in place. The Passuk puts everything in perspective. We see that the time has come. It would make perfect sense if we began to hear about how God introduces Himself to Moshe, putting the redemption into effect. The verse needs to say no more.

The problem is that it does.

After hearing, remembering and seeing, we would think that Hashem got the message. We would think that we don’t need to be told anymore. Every single word in the Torah is sharply allocated with the upmost directness. So why does our aforementioned Passuk end with “VaYeida Elokim” - ‘And God knew’? It sounds like an awfully dramatic way to trail off! ‘And God heard… And He remembered… And He saw… And God knew…’

Simply put: With all the given background, what is the Torah adding by telling us that on top of everything God also knew?

And on an even more fundamental level we can ask an even stronger question: God is omniscient (all-knowing). What does it mean that God knew? What, He didn’t know before? Only now does God have a revelation that the time of redemption has come? It seems almost heretical!

Our answer is based on a teaching of the Naos HaDasheh, the holy Sochatchover Rebbe. To understand VaYeida Elokim, we need begin with a closer analysis of the nature of what Da’as is really all about.

On a weekday, the fourth blessing of the Amidah is the Bracha of Chonen HaDa’as - the request for knowledge. On Motzaei Shabbos when we do Havdalah the private separation between the holy Shabbos and the mundane days of the week, the paragraph in which that separation is made is added into the Bracha of Chonen HaDa’as.

Why specifically there? Chazal us, “Im Ein Da’as, Havdalah Minayin?” If there is no Da’as how can there be separation? Without this Midah, the attribute of Da’as - it would be impossible to separate between the holiness of Shabbos and the rest of the week. For this reason Havdalah takes place in Chonen HaDa’as.

The Midrash tells us that a Torah scholar without Da’as is comparable to a carcass – he’s useless. And who is the paradigm, the shining example of a Talmid Chacham with Da’as? Moshe Rabbeinu! How do we know that he had this Midah of Da’as? Because even though he was called the ‘father’ of all prophets, even though he was the redeemer of the Jewish people, even though he went up to heaven and delivered the Torah to the Jews – he didn’t enter into the Mishkan until he was told. He knew where he belonged and where he didn’t. He knew his place. He knew how to separate and categorize – this is Da’as.

This gives us a new nuance in our understanding of the consequences of this sin with the Eitz HaDa’as - the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. We are told that before the sin, everything was clear. Truth was shining and lies were bold-faced. But after eating from the tree confusion began and these lines were blurred. Life is so complicated, and my psyche can be so biased and that sometimes I feel convinced that the best thing for me is really the worst, and I feel totally compelled to carry out what in reality is terrible for my physical or spiritual well-being. History is a process of putting things back in their proper place – by correcting Da’as.

And this also explains why the rise of the new Pharoah causes an escalation in the severity of the slavery. How is he introduced? “VaYakam Melech Chadash Al Mitzrayim” – And a new king rose over Egypt – “Asher Lo Yada Es Yosef” – who did not know of Yosef. Yosef represents separation amongst the nations of the world. Even in the deepest of darkness, he distinguished himself as a man of God, true to his religion, his beliefs, his God, and his purpose in the world. He spread knowledge of God and withheld himself from temptation – drawing clear lines and stating that he knew where he belongs – a masterful demonstration of Im Ein Da’as, Havdalah Minayin. But not knowing, or not recognizing Yosef and his qualities will plunge the Jews into the deepest forms of exile.

In Mitzrayim, Da’as needed serious rectification. Chazal tell us that men were doing women’s labor and women were doing construction. And when the Jews were extracted they were so spiritually desolate that the Ministering Angels of Egypt complained to Hashem saying, “These (the Jews) are idol worshippers, and these (the Egyptians) are idol worshipers! Why take these out and kill the others? What’s the difference?!”

Now we can explain why the verse goes out of its way to tell us VaYeida Elokim. God didn’t learn something new. There was no celestial revelation. Rather in order to go about redeeming the Jewish people, Hashem turned up the dial on supernal Midah of Da’as. VaYeida Elokim means that God activated Da’as in order to begin the processes that would redeem the Jews.

Like we said, on the surface, upon their exodus from Egypt the Jewish people were practically indistinguishable from the Egyptians – just like the Egyptian angles claimed. It was only by the merit of a more intrinsic distinction, something more fundamental about the Jewish people – their unique power to bring the world to its perfection - that Hashem yanked out the Jewish people from Egypt, separating them from their almost indiscernible surroundings, because Im Ein Da’as - the Da’as of VaYeida Elokim - Havdalah Minayin?

And this explains why that immediately after telling us VaYeida Elokim are we introduced to Moshe’s becoming chosen as the redeemer. Because Moshe is called by the ZoharRaza D’Da’as - the secret of what Da’as is all about. He is called Da’as Torah. And this explains the Midrash in which God says to Moshe, “If you don’t redeem them, they won’t be redeemed. Because only Moshe, who is a channel of Da’as in the world, is fitting to extract the Jews from Egypt.

The Sfas Emes famously says that the reason that we are commanded to remember the exodus form Egypt everyday is to remind us that every Jew can undergo his own personal exodus from Egypt - whenever he empowers himself to do so.

When I look from the outside I see a personality filled with good traits and bad ones. But I can pull myself out of any negative energy. I can rip from myself any bad trait. I can draw the lines and boundaries that I need in order to ensure the most personal growth.

But in order to create those necessary discernments we need to tap into inner-Da’as. I need to recognize who I really am on the inside. To realize that my true nature is pure and holy, and that any negative outward expressions are simply extraneous shells that outside influences have caked upon my soul.

When I being to realize that my true nature is holy and pure I begin to do the necessary distinctions that I need to truly experience ‘redemption’ and a maximization of my potential. Im Ein Da’as, Havdalah Minyain.

We should be Zocheh to understand who we really are. We should be meritorious enough to tap into the inner wellsprings of spiritual power that are inherit in every Jew – the factor that separates us from the nations of the world. If we can do this, there is no doubt that we will live lives of Shleimus and Simcha moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and ultimately, the Geulah Sheleimah!

1 comment:

  1. I love you Tzvi Moshe
    Signed your old Chavroomate,