This week’s Torah portion is “Va’era” (Exodus 6:2 – 9:35). In it, the sounds of the Exodus and redemption from slavery begin to be heard. Seven of the ten plagues are found in this week’s reading.
However, the gears of redemption did not start as easily as it ended. When Moses began to announce to the Jewish people that their freedom was imminent, the Jewish people were not so eager to believe him. As the Torah writes: “They did not listen to Moses because of their fallen spirits and the difficult work.”
It’s kind of hard to understand why the people did not believe Moses’ tidings of freedom! This is especially true since he already performed some of the miracles and wonders that God had shown him at the burning bush. Let’s face it, if somebody who can turn a stick into a snake before our very eyes were to promise us that we’d be rich very soon…I’d certainly believe him!
So why didn’t the Jewish people believe Moses?
The answer is because faith is not easy in difficult situations. When things are going great, when our job is secure, our health is perfect, and our marriage is bliss – it’s easy to believe in God, and to thank Him accordingly. But when we break a leg – it’s not as easy.
Even our prophets realized this psychological reality. Why does Zachariah say that “On that day God will be One and His Name One”? Is God not One now? What will change in the Messianic era that Zachariah is predicting?
Same idea. In today’s society people are distant from God; people are not quick to turn to Him. There are so many distractions in life nowadays that turn people’s attention AWAY from God. There are even those trying to “prove” that God doesn’t exist, and sadly, their ranks are growing. But when the Messiah comes, and everyone will automatically accept the existence of God — then his name will truly be One in the entire world. Yes, he is One now, but only then will the entire world acknowledge it. Too many distractions nowadays for some people to recognize His existence and providence!
What we see in our Torah reading this week is just how far this inability to accept the truth can be. Can you imagine? They had a God given promise from their forefather Abraham that they would one day be redeemed from Egypt. They had a promise from Isaac that they would one day be redeemed from Egypt. And they even had a promise from Jacob that they would be redeemed. Indeed, they even descended to Egypt knowing that they would eventually be slaves, but confident in the redemption. And now we have Moses and his Divine signs. But still — “they would not listen to him.” THAT’S how far the inability to accept help can be!
Difficulties certainly infringe on our ability to “hear the message,” but we have to strengthen ourselves in difficult times. We have to remember that we are not “slaves” to Pharaoh, nor may we be slaves to any “hard times” that might come our way. It is not always easy, but the Jewish people quickly came around, and shortly thereafter they were redeemed.
And so it is with us, if we do not allow hard times and difficulties to get the better of us, well, that’s an automatic personal redemption!
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Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
Rabbi Ari Enkin