In this week’s parsha, Va’eira, we are deep in Mitzraim, seeing first-hand how Hashem extricated us from this fearsome golus. From this we learn how He will extricate us from our present golus. As the Chofetz Chaim said,
(Quote from Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l)
It says in next week’s parsha, “I, Hashem” will take you out of Mitzraim, on which Rashi comments,
What was so difficult that Hashem Himself had to do it? And why is it so agonizingly difficult to end our present golus? We have to try to understand.
We are so deep in golus that we are unaware that we are in golus. We are in such darkness that we do not see. We have to come to grips with this, because – when the alien civilization in which we dwell comes crashing down – we don’t want our fate to be entangled with theirs, the way the fate of four-fifths of Am Yisroel was entangled with the fate of Mitzraim. (See Rashi to Shemos 13:18 and 10:22)
I had a personal insight into this when my wife recently found some letters from the 1960s, when we were first married. We were sailing (yes!) to England, where I was enrolled as a graduate student at Oxford University. Before beginning our studies, we toured Italy. This was a world of goyish antiquity and “culture.” At that time, there was no such thing as email or cell phones. People wrote letters. Some of our letters were eight sides long, with tiny writing and even a detailed floor plan of our “flat” in Oxford. Reading these letters is frightening.
Everything is described as beautiful and interesting and adventurous. In photographs from this era, we look normal and happy. We were enmeshed in golus, and we were smiling! That is frightening! How could we have been happy?
Sometimes people finish davening and immediately laugh and joke as they leave the shul. How can they do that? Didn’t they just cry for Yerushalayim?
When I look at those old letters and photographs, I realize that I was fooling myself completely! It is so easy to fall into the no-responsibility life of golus! Enjoy! In the words of the ad, “Just do it!” Go on vacation! Do what you feel like! Go to the stadium! You can even eat kosher, just like in Shushan ha Bira!
Why actually did my wife and I leave that life of being buried alive in golus? If we thought we were so happy, why did we become observant Jews? What shook us out of our drugged stupor?
In October, 1973, we visited a man named Walter Grunfeld. He was watching the TV news, which described the Yom Kippur War, as General Ariel Sharon’s forces crossed the Suez Canal and surrounded the Egyptian Army. Israel was saved from death! Walter Grunfeld was crying with happiness! I remarked to him, “Oh yes, I read in the newspaper that there is a war somewhere in the Middle East.”
And then he started screaming at me. “What kind of Jew are you? Are you made of stone! Don’t you have a heart! What kind of Jew are you?” I stood there like an icicle. I had never heard such words before. Those words never left me, to this day:
Walter Grunfeld’s words began to melt the ice. I began to realize: I am dead!
In those days, we lived in a small Hudson-Valley town. I was in the ambulance corps. My friend was the local pastor. He was only thirty seven, but he was already making plans for his retirement home in Florida. He was designing the home so the corridors would be wide enough to maneuver the stretcher when they took him on his final trip … to the morgue!
Decades ago, I entered an electronics store in Borough Park to buy a big-screen monitor. The clerk, with long payos swinging, said,
I ran out of the store!
That is why Hashem Himself had to enter Mitzraim. This is too big a job even for a malach! Hashem Himself had to descend to Mitzraim because His children were clutching so desperately at the emptiness!
My friends, the nations of the world are now gathering to plan the culminating attack of history, to complete the job – G-d forbid – which they have been plotting since the days of Yishmael and Esav. This time, they are sure they will succeed. They are not going just against the Land of Israel, but against the entire Nation. They have become “disgusted because of the Children of Israel.” (Shemos 1:12)
It is time to stop fooling ourselves! We smile for the pictures, but the scenery is fading. “Their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of man. They have a mouth, but cannot speak. They have eyes, but cannot see … those who make them should become like them, whoever trusts in them! (Tehillim 115)
Before the culture of emptiness blows itself up, we must flee to the Mountain of Torah. “Hashem Hoshia, hamelech ya’anainu b’yom kareinu … Hashem will answer us on the day we call!” (Tehillim 20:10)