Parshat Vaera

Candle lighting- 4:23
Havdalah- 5:43

The story is told about a political prisoner in a dark dungeon who always kept his eyes closed. Whenever he needed something, he would grope for it without opening his eyes.

“Why don’t you open your eyes?” a fellow prisoner asked him. “If you keep them open for a while, they’ll get used to the darkness, and you’ll be able to see a little.”

“That is exactly my reason,” he replied. “I don’t want to get used to this place. I never want to forget that I am living in darkness.”

One of the gravest dangers in any adverse situation is that we may resign ourselves to it. The first step towards redemption, therefore, is the reversal of the mentality of the oppressed, the reawakening of hope and aspiration for freedom.

In this week’s parsha, when Hashem promises to take the Jewish people out of Egypt, He uses the famed “four expressions of redemption.” The first of these is (6:6), “And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.” Some commentators point out that the Hebrew word for “burdens,” sivlot, can alternatively be translated as “forbearance.” The verse would then read, “And I will take you out from bearing Egypt.” The Jewish people had learned to tolerate and “bear” the exile. They had come to terms with a life devoid of spiritual fulfillment and human dignity. They lived for the existence of the moment, unable even to think about the transcendent qualities of a better life.

This was Hashem’s promise. First and foremost, He would take them out of this sedative state and energize them with the spirit of freedom so that they would no longer be able to tolerate the darkness.

Today it seems like life in NY and US as a whole is moving in the very same direction.

Hashem wanted then and now for our spirits to be revived, and desire and demand for our former high aspirations. This has to be the first stage of redemption, for otherwise a subdued existence would remain.

The second stage was for Hashem to break those chains and raise the Jewish people up to undreamed of heights.

In our present exile, complacency is responsible for our lacking the desire to break free. Our spiritual senses have been dulled, and we have become immune to the pain of exile. We are content not to “rock the boat” and live and let live.The contemporary comforts blocks us from feeling deprived of a utopian Israel with a rebuilt Beit Hamikdash and people living together in harmony and spiritual bliss. It is a deprivation to which we have been immunized by the long exile, but a tremendous deprivation nonetheless.

A great sage was staying at an inn far from his home. Late at night, he sat down praying fervently with tears the Tikkun Chatzos, the lamentations over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash that pious people say after midnight. The innkeeper came running. “Rabbi, rabbi, what happened? Why are you crying?”

“Because our holy Temple was destroyed,” said the rabbi. “Ah, if only Moshiach would come already and take us all out of this exile! Don’t you dream of such a day?”

The innkeeper fidgeted. “Well, what about my inn? What would happen to it? And what about my goats and my chickens? Will I have to leave them behind?”

“Your goats! Your chickens! Forget about them. Think about the wonderful life that awaits us in Israel.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, rabbi. I’m doing fine right here. I’m not sure I want to change things so much.”

“But don’t you ever have trouble from the local “zhlobee” that call you a zhid and steal your chickens in the night?” the rabbi asked, trying to find a way to inspire the simple innkeeper to yearn for redemption.

“Yes, you are right,” said the innkeeper, his brow squinting in thought, but he immediately brightened. “I have an idea, rabbi! Let’s send all the zhlobee to Israel, then we can live here in peace!”

We need to realize that, no matter how comfortable we are, there still is poverty, hatred, and ignorance that plague our society. We need to look beyond what we have in our own comfortable little niches and see the divine intervention that we want more of. Yes, we all aspire to a utopian world, but we must first appreciate that there can be no ideal society without spirituality. Only in the context of this appreciation can we truly yearn for the redemption. Only though genuine yearning can we hope to achieve it.

Thank you Rabbi Reich for allowing me to share your message.

Good Shabbos,

Dr. Chana Uzhansky

Chana Uzhansky Ed.D.
Head Of School

Happy New Year from SIHA! 

Due to the Holiday, our newsletter is taking a pause. Please look forward to next week’s edition with more exciting goings-on at our school! 

Here is to a new year full of learning, achievements, success, and wonder!