THE NATURE OF NATURE
Parshat Bo brings us to the conclusion of the time period referred to in Jewish history as the shibud Mitzrayim - the slavery in Egypt. The final three plagues which are recorded in this week's Torah portion are the decisive blows that Hashem brings upon the Egyptians before the great yetziat Mitzrayim - redemption from Egypt.
Parshat Bo brings us to the conclusion of the time period referred to in Jewish history as the shibud Mitzrayim - the slavery in Egypt. The final three plagues which are recorded in this week's Torah portion are the decisive blows that Hashem brings upon the Egyptians before the great yetziat Mitzrayim - redemption from Egypt. Hashem then leads the Jewish people into the desert where they prepare themselves for the upcoming revelation, G-d appearing on Mt. Sinai and giving them the Torah. The highlight of this event comes in two weeks in Parshat Yitro with the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments.
A significant connection to the exodus from Egypt seems to emerge from many of the mitzvot. The first two of the Ten Commandments read: "I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:2-3). The fourth commandment is the mitzvah to keep Shabbat, about which we say in kiddush every Friday night that it is "in remembrance of the redemption from Egypt." Numerous other commandments are mentioned over and over as being reminders of Hashem's bringing us out of Egypt. It is obvious that the exodus was a monumental event in our history, but why is its remembrance so essential to the basic foundations of our belief and to the actual fulfillment of these commandments?
The answer can be found by examining the events surrounding the exodus. The ten plagues that Hashem brings upon the Egyptians seem to warp the very nature of nature itself. An absolute darkness so thick that it can paralyze a person descends upon Egypt, yet the Jews continue to roam freely as always. The water suddenly turns to blood, rendering it undrinkable, while the Jews quenched their thirst with the very same water. And for all of the firstborn males of an entire nation to drop dead in a single moment? Totally unthinkable. Yet, the reason why these all seem so strange and miraculous to us is because we forget the true meaning of "nature".
The fact that we are able to walk down the street and see where we are going, or that we can take a drink of water which will quench our thirst - even to simply do the basic acts we view as being essential to normal living - are all, in reality, miraculous events on par with the plagues that Hashem brought upon Egypt. At every moment of our lives, Hashem is constantly sustaining and renewing the world as we know it, keeping "nature" running as it has since the time of creation. This is why the remembrance of the redemption from Egypt is so essential to the realization that we have only one G-d. Hashem is the One behind the "day-to-day" operations of our world, and without Him we would be totally unable to live.
On Shabbat, the day that Hashem "rested" from creating the world, we are reminded that even though Hashem created the world to run with the laws of "nature", He is also the One who can alter those same laws, as He did for the Egyptians at the time of the redemption. If we can only understand this kindness that Hashem does for us at every moment, we will gain a greater appreciation for our own lives.
Rachi Messing, a student both at Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Towson State University in Baltimore, is engaged to Devorah Estreicher of Atlanta., a student both at Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Towson State University in Baltimore, is engaged to Devorah Estreicher of Atlanta.
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