With the hills of Yerushalayim as the backdrop this week, my thoughts are moved to an idea that I saw in the writings of the Ishbitzer Rebbe, Reb Tzadok, in the Beis Yaakov on this week’s parsha.

Moshe Rabbeinu brings his message of liberation, of geuloh, of redemption to the bnei Yisroel.

‘Velo shomu el Moshe’ – they didn’t listen to him, they couldn’t listen to him. ‘Mikotzer ruach ume’avodoh kosho’ – they, their spirit was crushed.

They weren’t ready to hear the message, and immediately afterwards the possuk makes a detour to discussing their lineage, their yichus. What was the purpose of this detour?

Says the Ishbitzer, this very idea, when people are not ready to hear their own self-worth, when they are crushed, when they’re depressed and they cannot see the way out of their own tzoros, of their own struggles, then indeed there is no hope and they first therefore needed to be reminded of their own innate greatness.

Who are you? You are the bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok v’Yaakov. You are those who have a special and close and intimate relationship with the Ribono shel Olom. Look at those who came before you and see who you really are and your potential, and the truth is, this is the essence of every aspect of exile.

‘Vayoreu osonu haMitzrim’ – at the beginning of the sefer, it says, strangely, not ‘vayoreu lonu’ – they dealt evenly with us or to us, but rather ‘vayoreu osonu haMitrzrim’. They turned us, or at least they endeavored for us to have the negative self-image and self-perception as being ‘ra’ – as if we are the guilty ones. We’re the ones that are the problem. We are somehow innately bad and when we turn from being the nirdaf, the pursued, to being the pursuer, to being perceived as the aggressor, as the world sometimes wrongly perceives us, as Paraoh endeavored to tell the people of Mitzrayim – ‘hovo nischakmoh lo’ – they are the problem.

If we begin to feel that and if we begin to act that way, if we become in terms of our actions, we become in some way  ‘ra’ – we become bad –  then indeed all hope is lost because we are not bad.

The Vilna Gaon writes in his commentary to Mishlei, that the difference between the word ‘rosho’ and ‘ra’ is that ‘rosho’ is used exclusively for bein odom lamokom, where we fall down in terms of our obligation in our relationship to Hakodosh Boruch hu, whereas ‘ra’ is used in our interpersonal relationships, in the mitzvos bein odom l’chaveiro.

Says the Tano D’vei Eliyohu, that what happened in golus was we turned round to each other and ‘v’niskabtzu kulam’, ‘v’chorsu bris’, and we cut a deal, a pact, a covenant with each other to be ‘gomel chasodim elu v’elu’, that we would stick together. We would be in the tzoro together and we’d look after each other, we’d care for each other, and that says, the medrash is where Paraoh lost the plot. He did not succeed in breaking our spirit.

We turned round to each other and we supported each other and we therefore found our way out of golus.


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