Parashas Vaeira 5781 – Hashem Unconditional Love

The Parasha says: “Say, therefore, to the Bnei Yisrael: I am Hashem. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God. And you shall know that I, Hashem, am your God who freed you from the labors of the Egyptians.” [Shemos 6:6-7]. These Verse are famous as they express the four languages of salvation: “I will free you, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, and I will take you”, for which were instituted the four cups of wine we drink during the Seder on Pesach as stated in the Talmud [Pesachim 68b]. Undoubtably, the different languages of salvation are all important, yet since we were only freed from Egypt, one language could have sufficed, what is then the purpose of the other three? We can also wonder about the correlation between cups of wine and the languages of salvation? What is the reason Chazal required us to celebrate the salvation with four cups of wine? The Ohr Hachayim [Shemos 3:8] wonders; why did Hashem had to wait for the Jews to sink into the 49th degree of impurity before saving them? Why didn’t he save before so there would not risk crossing the threshold of the 50th, after which there would no longer be any salvation possible? King Solomon says about the fiftieth degree of impurity in Mishlei [2:19]: “He who comes to her does not return, nor does the attains the paths of life.” The Ohr Hachayim reveals: it was all Hashem’s plan that the Bnei Yisrael sink in that deep, as the souls of the Jews that were enslaved in Egypt were the souls of the generation of the deluge that have perished then because of their immorality. To correct their sins, the Jews in Egypt had to descend to the lowest possible level and ascend from there to the holiest level that was reached in Mount Sinai. The Zohar adds, that Bnei Yisrael had reached such an exalted level at Mount Sinai, that all sins that were performed by the prior generations were all corrected. Hence, Hashem abolished death and Man could live forever as it was the intention during the creation of the world. Indeed, Adam if not for the sin of eating the forbidden fruit, was supposed to be eternal. The Ohr Hachayim stipulates that this was Hashem’s intention, that the Bnei Yisrael correct the sins of previous generations so the world can return to what it was intended to be. Unfortunately, the Jews sinned gravely with the golden calf and death was reinstated. Though, the Verse [Shemos 12:40] states: “Bnei Yisrael sojourn in Egypt four hundred and thirty years.” The Midrash immediately wonders that 430 years would take us back to the very day Avraham was announced that his descendants will become slaves in a foreign nation, but they went down to Egypt only a long time after. Indeed, only over 200 years later did Yaakov descended to Egypt, and even then, the enslaving did not start until 70 years after his passing. The Midrash stipulates that the harsh enslaving was only 86 years, but Hashem, in His Kindness, counted the years since it was announced to Avraham. The Zohar reveals that when the Jews came out of Egypt and travelled toward the red sea, the Verse states: “Egypt travelled behind them” [Shemos 14:10], it should have indicated “Egyptian”, why it declares “Egypt instead. The Zohar explains, Egypt is referring to the Angel of Egypt that was arguing to Hashem; “You have decreed that they will be enslaved for 430 years and they have only completed one fifth, 86 years, they must return and complete the remaining four fifth.” Hashem deny his request. Now we understand the need for the four languages of salvation, as each one indicates that 86 years of bondage were annulled. And the reason we celebrate these salvations over 4 cups of wine, the Toras Chaim says it is as the word cup in Hebrew is [וסֹכ [ּwhich numerical value is 86. So, each cup is celebrating the annulation of 86 years of enslaving [5 x 86 = 430]. Hereafter is a story that embodies the level a Jew can reach: It was with heavy hearts that a group of senior chassidim assembled in the home of their master, Rabbi Zvi Elimelech of Dinov (1783–1841; known as the “Bnei Yissaschar” after his work by that title). Their rebbe had fallen ill, and it was understood that his moments were numbered. They joined his children and grandchildren to be with him in his closing hours of physical life, and perhaps hear some final instruction from their mentor and guide. The rebbe’s eyes were closed, and a medley of trepidation and ecstasy played upon his holy face. Our master is spending his last minutes in communion with his Maker, they all thought; how selfish of us to assume that he would have something to say to us at this time! Suddenly, the rebbe’s eyes opened and began to search the small crowd. Finally his glance rested on one man, who was standing to one side. The chassidim made way for this man, and gently propelled him toward the rebbe’s bedside. “Reb Shmuel,” the chassidim heard the rebbe inquire, “what is it that you wanted to ask?” “Rebbe,” said the man, whom no one recalled ever having seen before, “the wool that I purchased . . . what shall I do?” “Don’t worry, Reb Shmuel,” said Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech. “Wait until next winter. The price will rise, and you will make a handsome profit.” The rebbe’s eyes closed. Soon after, his soul departed to its supernal abode. In the days that followed, the chassidim hotly debated the significance of their rebbe’s final words. The mysterious “wool merchant” had disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared; certainly, he was one of the thirty-six “hidden tzaddikim,” or perhaps Elijah the Prophet? Various theories were offered on the Kabbalistic meanings of “wool,” “winter” and “handsome profit.” Word of these deliberations reached the ears of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech’s son, Rabbi Dovid. “You are mistaken,” he said. “There is no mystery here, no hidden meaning, only a profound expression of my saintly father’s love for every Jew. “Reb Shmuel is a simple merchant, who would often come to seek Father’s counsel and blessings regarding his business affairs. Recently he had bought a large quantity of wool, after which its price had dropped sharply; the poor man faced the loss of all his assets, as well as huge debts for the sums he had borrowed to make the purchase. He rushed to Dinov to seek my father’s advice. Upon his arrival, he followed the crowd into Father’s room, unaware of why we had assembled. Father, sensing the presence of a Jew in need, considered it his highest priority to assure him that all would be well.” Here’s a second story: The eighteenth century was a difficult time to be a Jew in Eastern Europe. Once, in an attempt to avoid corrupt border officials, a Jewish man hired agents to smuggle nearly 200 wagonloads of wine across the Russian countryside. He had invested much money in this risky endeavor, and anticipated the day when he would hear of the wagons’ safe arrival. One day, the man, who counted himself among the adherents of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe), was notified, like a bolt of lightning on a sunny day, that his 200 wagons had been caught and seized by the Russian authorities. Overcome by grief, the poor man barely managed to process the news before he passed out. Even worse, he could not be shaken awake. Whenever one of the people with him succeeded in reviving him, the man simply slumped back into a faint. This scenario repeated itself numerous times. His plight was eventually brought before the Alter Rebbe, whose answer was puzzling but final: the wagons had not been seized. The remark spurred a hunt for the missing wagons, and they were discovered, safe and sound. According to the drivers, during their flight across the Russian countryside, the sound of a carriage fitted with a bell led them to believe that they were being chased by the authorities. Concerned for their lives, the wagon drivers abandoned the caravan and fled on foot. As a result, the long entourage of horses tied to wagons clogged the road. Various passersby could not help but notice this and guided the horses to the side of the road, where they were tied up. The horses and their precious merchandise stood by the side of the road until, eventually, the drivers returned and brought the merchandise to the relieved owner. After this was all cleared up, the Chassidim approached the Alter Rebbe again with a different question: How is it possible that someone who claims not to perform miracles is caught blatantly doing just that? How did the Rebbe know that the goods had not been requisitioned? The Alter Rebbe waved the question off, explaining, “It was never a miracle. My answer was based on the teaching of our sages that Hashem only sends a person suffering that he is capable of withstanding. When I heard that the man was unable to rouse due to constant fainting, it was obvious to me that 200 seized wagonloads of wine is not a challenge that G-d would send him. Such hardship was too much for him to confront.”

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