Weekly Cycle

Friday, December 24, 2010

Leaving Egypt: Getting to Know G-d, and the Torah Portion of Va'eira

Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches. But let him that boasts exult in this, that he understands and knows me, for I am the Lord Who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord. (Jeremiah, 9:22-23)

Our entire purpose in this world is to know G-d. That is our main task, the ultimate worth, and that is exactly what Pharaoh was missing. In last week's Torah Portion, when Moshe and Aharon approach Pharaoh as ambassadors of G-d and tell him to let His people go, Pharaoh responds: ""Who is the Lord that I should heed His voice to let Israel out? I do not know the Lord, neither will I let Israel out." (Exodus 5:2)

In this week's portion, Pharaoh and the Egyptians begin to learn the hard way Who is G-d. Each of the plagues shows G-d's dominion over a different aspect of His Creation. The lesson, however, is also for the Jewish People: "And I will take you to Myself as a People, and I will be your G‑d. Then you will know that I am G‑d, the One who took you out from the subjugation of Egypt." (Exodus 6:7) The Baal Shem Tov explains that the verse hints that the Jews themselves had to re-learn Who G-d is, and What He is all about. (http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/379423/jewish/Losing-Awareness-of-G-d.htm)

The struggle to know G-d continues, and our final redemption is the ultimate fulfillment of our quest for His knowledge. About the Messianic times, Maimonides writes:

The sages and the prophets did not crave the era of Moshiach in order to rule over the world... or to eat, drink and rejoice, only so that they be free for Torah and its wisdom and be rid of any oppressor and disrupter... And at that time there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry. For the good will be plentiful, and all delicacies available as dust. The entire occupation of the world will be only to know G-d... Israel will be of great wisdom; they will perceive the esoteric truths and comprehend their Creator's wisdom as is the capacity of man. As it is written: "For the earth shall be filed with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea..."  (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:4-5).

May this era come soon, and when it comes, may we have the right priorities in place in order to be able to appreciate it.

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