A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Va-ehra 5784

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst.”                                                                                                                                                Sh’mot / Exodus 7:5

Our teacher, Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen of Dvinsk1 observes “that it is through the abundance of signs and wonders that God performs in Egypt that the name of God will become elevated and sanctified. These expressions of divine power will make known to all that God is the Creator and ruler over the natural order… This is necessary so that the Israelites are not only liberated physically from Egypt but that they were liberated spiritually as well.” The Israelites, having witnessed the awesome nature of God, were able to divest themselves of Egyptian religious beliefs regarding polytheism, the idea that the human monarch was an empowered demi-god, as well as the misconceptions regarding the nature of idols.

Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen understands our verse as expressing the essential twofold nature of the Exodus, physical and spiritual. The challenge of filtering the false narratives and erroneous ideas which proliferate in the society in which we reside as Jews, regardless of where we live today. The echo chambers of social media have enabled fringe elements at both ends of the political spectrum to trumpet their virulent hate messages to such a degree that they have insinuated into more mainstream media.

Unlike the generation of the Exodus, we cannot remain passive as the hand of God is manifest and acts to negate the falsehoods of that era. Even more noteworthy, is that the Israelites required regular reminders regarding the nature of God and the ephemerality of idols, as these ideas persist amongst the people for centuries only to be decried by prophet after prophet. The ease with which these distortions persist and pervade in a society highlights the challenge before us to be diligent in verifying the “truths” we embrace, proclaim, and insist upon. It also demands of us that we be willing to respond to the proliferations of malevolent ideas that demean and debase, that promulgate negative stereotypes. That task became ours as an ongoing expression of liberation.2

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen of Dvinsk (1843–1926) was a prominent leader in the Orthodox community in Eastern Europe. He is best known for his writings on Rambam’s Mishneh Torah and even more notably his commentary on the Torah entitled Meshech Chochma which was published posthumously by one of his students.

2 Sunday marks 100 days of captivity of those taken by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. The link below will take you to 100 Days of Captivity – Raising Global Awareness – Bring Hersh Home containing suggestions on how we can each mark this difficult moment and work towards the liberation still being held captive.