Torah Weekly

For the week ending 24 January 2009 / 28 Tevet 5769

Parshat Vaera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.


Lovely As A Tree

A lazy sunny Sunday afternoon in high summer.

The dull splash of a cormorant diving for fish in the lake punctuates the chorus of the bees and birds. Butterflies idly wing their way, seeking closed petals for a short rest. The bees, on the other hand, ignore the closed petals and are focused on the open flowers from which they may draw nectar.

In the higher branches a bird is busy feathering its nest, oblivious to a fox that is investigating the trunk as a potential lair. Insects are patrolling the tree's bark, looking for an opening, oozing sap.

Up from the underbrush comes the heavy sound of work boots trudging their way as the woodcutter advances on the tree. His gasoline saw chatters away idly at his side, "pocket-a-pocket-a-pocket-a…." He considers the tree for a few moments and then decides to look for another victim.

A pair of jogging yuppies, togged in Nike's finest, burst into the glade and decide that the tree will make a perfect spot to shade them for a brief rest.

How many trees do you count here? One or many?

Our Sages teach us "a person is obliged to say, 'The world was created for me’."

This entire world was created for me. The sun shines for me; the trees were created to be of use to me. Everything in this world was put here for me.

What's amazing is that everyone can say that the world is created for them – and they can all be right.

The tree is one tree but it is a myriad of worlds.

Every morning we bless G-d for "preparing the footsteps of man." Wherever we are, G-d orchestrates each moment in our lives. Every aspect of our lives is prepared for us as the backdrop against which we will make the choices that lead us to eternal life, or by wasting those moments, letting them dissolve into black holes of opportunity lost.

And amazingly, each person's world is intertwined with thousands and maybe millions of other people's worlds — and they all provide a unique scenario for each and every one of us.

The Alter of Slabodka writes that each plague that Egyptians suffered was both a punishment and a demonstration of G-d's hashgacha pratit (individual providence).

While the Egyptians languished in darkness, the Jewish homes were filled with light. The spiritual Masters recount that during the first plague of blood a Jew and an Egyptian could drink from the same glass and what was blood for the Egyptian was water for the Jew.

Each of us live in our own world. We are all on our own individual monorail. This is why jealousy is both ridiculous and frustrating. I can never be in your world and you can never be in mine. They are both infinitely separate and eternally entwined.

  • Sources: Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

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