Stop-And-Go On The Way To The Geulah




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    Stop-And-Go On The Way To The Geulah

    From the desk of Rabbi Nissim Lagziel, Mashpia in Oholei Torah: This Shabbos we finish Sefer Shemos, the second of the five books of the Torah. Let’s pause to think about about what we have learned in Sefer Shemos. What is the central point of the book of Shemos that we’ve lived with for the past many weeks? • Full Article


    Wife: I have a headache today and I can’t do anything.

    Husband: That’s too bad. I had wanted to suggest you go shopping at the mall.

    Wife: Really? I was just joking …

    Husband: Me too!


    This Shabbos we finish Sefer Shemos, the second of the five books of the Torah. Let’s pause to think about about what we have learned in Sefer Shemos. What is the central point of the book of Shemos that we’ve lived with for the past many weeks?

    The name of something reflects its essence because a name is the channel for the life-giving energy and the significance of the thing called by that name. According to this, the name of the sefer tells us about the contents. What is the original name of Sefer Shemos?

    At the end of our parsha, Ramban calls Shemos by a new name. He says, “Thus ends the Sefer HaGeula,” the book of redemption. Others call this book “Sefer HaOrah” based on the Medrash (Bereishis Raba 3:5), “because in it, the Jews went from darkness to light.” Based on what we said above it would seem to be clear that the main subject of Sefer Shemos, with all its parshiyos, is the Geula. But how is this appropriate when the beginning of the sefer goes on for quite some time about one of the harshest exiles in Jewish history?

    Furthermore, our Sages (Brachos 12a) say, “Everything follows the conclusion.” Based on this, the conclusion of this sefer, the final verses of Pikudei, should directly connect to the theme of the sefer. When you read the end of parshas Pikudei you find it very hard to find any connection between the end of the sefer and the general theme. The parsha ends with a description of the travels of the Jewish people in the desert and about the cloud which rested on them when they camped, as the symbol of the divine presence in the Mishkan and within the Jewish People. It sounds lovely and uplifting but what connection is there to redemption (geula), light (orah) or names (shemos)?

    A study of the teachings of Chassidus just make the question stronger. According to Chassidus, the spiritual exodus from Egypt did not happen at once but gradually, in stages. So that the Jewish people would be worthy of entering the land, they needed to be liberated of their inner servitude to the impurity of Egypt. This redemption happened through their travels. Each journey was a minor exodus from Egypt.

    According to this, within the journeys there were moments of Geula and moments of exile. As long as the Jewish people were moving in the direction of Eretz Yisrael it was part of the Geula process. When they rested between journeys it was a temporary halt to Geula because the encampment did not advance them. If so, the camping halted their progress and was, in a certain sense, an exile state.

    How does the parsha and the book end? “Before the eyes of the entire House of Israel in all their journeys.” This final verse describes the camping of the Jewish people in the desert and ends with the words, “all their journeys.” It would seem that this conclusion on the topic of camping in the desert is the antithesis to the entire book! The camping in the desert represents exile. Why end the ‘Sefer HaGeula’ in this way?


    In a fantastic sicha, the Rebbe explains how the answers to all these questions are to be found in the words of Rashi on the final verse of the parsha. The verse seems to contain a contradiction. On the one hand, it talks about the camping of the Jewish people in the desert. On the other hand, the Torah uses the word “their journeys” which means traveling, and not the word “their camping,” which would be far more suitable.

    Rashi explains that the Torah calls the camping “their journeys” to teach that the camping was an inseparable part of the journey. In other words, even the camping is called a journey because each resting place is the point of departure for the next journey. The Jewish people had to advance toward entering the land and even the stops were part of the advancement since they were preparations for the journeys that followed.

    On the spiritual plane, there will be those who explain the camping in the desert as a sort of “descent for the sake of an ascent,” but with the Rebbe’s explanation, the descent is part of the ascent; the camping is part of the journey.

    The world is advancing with giant steps toward the Geula but at the same time there are occasional situations that develop which express the fact that we are still in exile. Each time something negative happens in the world, the darkness becomes more prominent and we revert to the bitter reality of exile. Here, precisely at this place, the end of our parsha comes to teach us that the moments when exile is felt, those situations which we describe as standing in place, inertia, are part of the Geula process!

    Despite the difficulty of exile and despite the personal exile we encounter from time to time, we need to know that a process, a journey, is taking place which is entirely part of the Geula.

    Now we understand why the book of Shemos is called the Sefer Ha’Geula and how this is expressed specifically at the end of the parsha with the verses about traveling. The first part of the book tells about those who are meant to carry out the ultimate purpose of creation, the Jewish people. The second half of Shemos is about building the Mishkan, the actualization of the mission for which the world and the Jewish people were created. Parshas Pikudei describes the execution of the goal of creation, how the Jewish people built a physical structure. But that’s not the end, because it’s not enough to reveal the holiness in the Mishkan; the holiness also needs to be revealed in the camping, in the places of darkness and concealment. Even when halting in the ‘desert of nations’ which is full of kelipos and sitra achara, we need to take the darkness and to reveal the light in it and through it. We need to transform, reveal and illuminate how stopping in place, camping and standing still, is the time and place of advancement and elevation.

    When a dwelling for G-d is made out of the dark places, it shows that from the outset, from the beginning of the journey, this was all one big process of Geula. There was really no true exile; there was always Geula. It’s just that while traveling it seemed to us that there were stops. This is why the Torah makes it clear that the places where they camped were a part of the journeying. Exile is not something which opposes Geula; it is the way toward the Geula to the point that it’s part and parcel of the Geula itself!


    We will end with a story which shows how the darkness itself is the light and standing in place is the impetus for advancement.

    When Rabbi Moshe Sherer, a renowned American askan was a young boy, he fell ill. The doctor prescribed medication, but warned that it was very expensive. Even after Mrs. Sherer had gathered all the money to be found in the house, she doubted that she had enough to pay for the medicine, but she nevertheless rushed to the pharmacy to plead her son’s case.

    The owner was not in the store, so Mrs. Sherer begged his assistant to fill the prescription. The young man was moved by the concern of a frantic mother, and agreed to prepare the medicine in exchange for all the money Mrs. Sherer had.

    After filling the prescription, the pharmacist’s assistant handed Mrs. Sherer the precious medicine. In her eagerness to get home Mrs. Sherer tripped and watched in horror as the bottle flew from her hand and broke.

    Her money and medicine gone, Mrs. Sherer rushed back to the pharmacy, still carrying the bag with the broken bottle inside, to once again plead for her little Moshe’s life. By that time, the store owner had returned, and he listened to Mrs. Sherer’s sobs and offers to clean the store after hours if he would just refill the prescription. Unable to resist her pleas, the pharmacist went to the back of the store to refill the prescription. He returned a moment later, ashen faced. “Angels are watching over your son,” he told her in a tone of awe and amazement.

    From the smell of the medicine absorbed by the bag, he realized that the original prescription had been incorrectly filled, and instead of the needed medication, Mrs. Sherer had received medicine that could have been life-threatening. Shaken by the near disaster, he provided Mrs. Sherer with the proper medication and even returned the money she had originally paid.

    Moshe heard the story of his miraculous salvation many times from his mother. She would tell him, “When I tripped and heard the bottle breaking, I thought my life was over. Little did I know that what I saw as an incomparable disaster was really the greatest blessing from the Ribbono shel Olam.”

    Good Shabbos!


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