SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME
"Hi dear, how was your day?"
"Oh, it was awful. I moved 50 bricks for a new
"Hi dear, how was your day?"
"Oh, it was awful. I moved 50 bricks for a new construction project. I got whipped twice for going too slow. My back aches. I can't take this slavery any more."
"Have faith, my husband. Our tradition tells us that we will soon be redeemed from this bondage, and then we'll be able to serve Hashem in peace."
"I wish I shared your optimism, but I just can't imagine this horrible situation ever coming to an end."
During those years of slavery in Egypt, imagine how our forebears must have felt. Surely, there must have been many who were despondent, totally encapsulated by the apparent futility of the situation. Notwithstanding the belief that there would be a redeemer who would one day come and take them out of Egypt, there must have been skeptics who saw no light at the end of the bondage-filled tunnel. Then one day - suddenly - Moses appears on the scene. Imagine the tumult and upheaval that accompanied his arrival.
What preceded Moses' arrival which can be seen as a stimulant to his appearance? At the burning bush, where Hashem commands Moses to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, Hashem tells Moses that He has heard their cry. Thus, it can be inferred that the crying of the Children of Israel played a role in bringing their redemption. It is important to note, however, that not every Jew was liberated. During the plague of darkness, 80% of the Jewish people died because they didn't deserve to be redeemed (Rashi on ibid. 13:18). Why did the remaining one-fifth merit freedom? Because they cried. Cairo wasn't their New Jerusalem. They weren't completely steeped in Egyptian culture. They retained a connection to their uniqueness as G-d's people.
"Hi honey, how was work today?"
"Not good. The boss chewed me out at the office. He refused my request for a raise. And to top it off, he wants me to put in more hours. I've got so little time for you and the kids as it is. How was your day?"
"It was ok, but I was reading the paper, and as usual, there is so much that is wrong with the world. But I found solace thinking that some day this will change, when Mashiach (Messiah) comes."
"I know we're supposed to believe that, but it's just so hard to fathom it ever happening."
In our day, we are plagued by complacency. As long as we have a house, job, and two cars, life is good. Nothing is lacking - this is utopia. Deep down, we may view with skepticism and ambivalence the notion of a messianic age. This doesn't change the fact that our current world isn't perfect - there's killing, immorality, and G-dlessness. Just because we've got it good doesn't mean that others do. The Jewish people are currently running on a spare tire. This is not the ideal state of our nation. We are practicing "Bedi'eved" Judaism, making the best of less-than-optimal conditions. In fact, the majority of the 613 mitzvot aren't even currently applicable to us due to our temporary exile and lack of the Temple.
In his fundamental composition of the "13 Principles of Faith", Maimonides establishes that the 12th principle is to believe in the coming of the Mashiach. It is a core tenet of Judaism that one day the Mashiach will arrive and lead us out of our current physical and spiritual exile. In a sense, the Mashiach may be viewed as a modern-day Moses, who will show us the path to serving Hashem and usher in an age of spiritual bliss, when the entire world will recognize G-d as the one King over all. Additionally, the Temple will be permanently established. We pray for this era every day in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, which concludes with the words from the opening of this week's special Haftorah, "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Hashem, as in days of old and in former years" (Malachi 3:4).
Our tradition teaches us that there will be a "righteous remnant" who will merit to see the redemption. Additionally, the Talmud says that when a generation is dwindling, they should hope for Mashiach (Tractate Sanhedrin 98a). Who will comprise the "righteous remnant" - the one-fifth that merit the redemption? Those who cry. Those who recognize that Western culture is killing us. It has wreaked havoc on our numbers as scores of us our fleeing the Jewish fold through assimilationist genocide. It has perhaps been even more devastating in tainting the quality of our religiosity. In Egypt, Hashem only redeemed those who wanted to be redeemed. The others wanted to be Egyptians. Do we want to be redeemed or do we want to be Egyptian?
How can we protect ourselves from the melting pot? We must galvanize ourselves into increasing our efforts to remain unique, and respond to the allures of Western culture with augmented devotion to Torah living. Such "taking it up a notch" is an aspect of "zerizut", a concept that when performing a mitzvah, it should be done with zeal and excitement. This week's Torah portion alludes to this concept. Rashi, the fundamental commentator on the Torah, notes that the Hebrew word "tzav - command" in the second verse of the portion, hints to the concept of zerizut. When a mitzvah is performed, it should be done with enthusiasm. As society intensifies its efforts to suck us in, we must likewise intensify our efforts to retain and maintain our identity through heightened conscientiousness with regard to Torah observance. By doing this, and by keeping in mind our historic (and as yet unfulfilled) mission, we can hope to be a link to - or better, be amongst - the righteous remnant that will see Mashiach.
We find a strong connection between Passover and the performance of mitzvot. The Torah states, "You shall guard the matzot" (Exodus 12:17). According to Rashi, "matzot" can be read as "mitzvot". Thus, just as our matzot shouldn't turn to chametz (leavened bread), so too our mitzvot shouldn't. This means that we must vigilantly perform the mitzvot with zerizut and not delay the opportunity. Don't wait until you retire and have more "free time". Don't wait until your child is at the marriage canopy with a non-Jew. Don't wait until your grandchild dances around a Christmas tree. Instead of being passive, seize the bull by the horns. In the merit of our zealous performance of Hashem's mitzvot, may He hasten the coming of Mashiach, soon and in our days!
Daniel Lasar, a graduate of Emory Law School in Atlanta, is studying at the Ohr Somayach Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
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