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Home » Shemot Parshah

Shemot: A Day Is Born

Submitted by on December 31, 2012 – 2:02 amNo Comment | 1,841 views

Baby De-Light

In their darkest hour, a time of deep despair, a baby boy named Moses was born to Yocheved and Amram, the leaders of a suffering nation. It took only a glance to notice that this baby was special. A good baby. But aren’t all babies good? Yes, but this one was a de-light – his birth filled his entire house with light. Miriam, his older sister, had prophesied that he would be the Jewish redeemer. And so it was that with his very birth, Moses lightened the load of his people. (1)

If ever there was a time that the people needed a ray of hope, this was it. Pharaoh had done his utmost to break their spirits. His troops snatched Jewish babies from their mother’s bosom and hurled them into the Nile. They combed Jewish neighborhoods in search of babies, while forcing the parents into backbreaking and spirit crushing labor. (2)

Imagine the despair of a father, who comes home from a day of forced labor and flogging, only to find his wife disconsolate over a baby she had carried for nine happy months, snatched from her womb and hurled to a watery death. Can anything be more demoralizing?

Suddenly Moses bursts upon the scene and fills weary hearts with light. Rumor spreads like wildfire. Miriam’s prophecy came true. The anointed has arrived, the redeemer was born. The end of our suffering is near, dare we believe? For a desperate people, a ray of hope ignites.

Endurance

I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of their earlier despair nor the thrilling jolt of the miracle baby’s arrival. Swirling rumors about the baby’s whereabouts, first in his parents’ home then on the Nile and finally in Pharaoh’s palace, surely grew the Moses myth to epic proportions. But consider their crushing disappointment when they learned that Moses fled Egypt to save his life. The anointed redeemer, who had ingratiated himself with Pharaoh and had seemingly embarked on his march to destiny, abandoned his charge and fled to save his own skin.

This emotional roller coaster was much more than our suffering ancestors could bear and indeed, years later, when Moses returned with the promise of redemption, the people refused to believe. Who can blame them considering the cruel dashing of their previous hopes? They were loath to believe again. Still as the story unfolds we learn that they were wrong. This time Moses was here to stay and the promise of redemption was real.  (3)

In life progress is never measured in few steps. Life’s journey is tortuous and circuitous. If we knew the outcome in advance there would be no intrigue or accomplishment in the end. The wise retains the flickering flame of hope and perseveres with confidence despite the weary odds. The moment of salvation is rarely foreseen. It arrives when we least expect it, but only if we give it a chance. Only if we endure in confidence and in belief.

Creating Our Own Babies

The Chassidic Masters taught that our days are babies of sorts. a day is born - innerstreamBabies can fill us with light and joy like Moses did or with despair and sorrow like those who were abducted and thrown into the Nile. So too our days. Every morning a day is born, it can be bright with achievement and exuberance or harrowing with failure and despair. Which it will be is our daily choice. (4)

Birth is a beginning, but it is also a conclusion of a process that begins nine months earlier. It begins with an embryo in the mother’s womb. The embryo is a tiny cell, but it contains all the information necessary to grow an entire human body. The zygote has no heart, lungs, nails or skin, but the essence of these organs, their DNA, is already inherent.

If the embryo is chromosomally balanced and if it is properly absorbed in the womb it will develop into a full fetus with limbs and organs intact. If it is chromosomally imbalanced or if complications arise in the womb the pregnancy can tragically result in miscarriage.

The same is true of our day. The first moment of the day should be devoted to contemplation of purpose. Why did G-d see fit to give me life today and what role can I play for Him today? Such contemplation is best undertaken during prayer when we reflect on the oneness of G-d and His supreme mastery of the entire world including our personal affairs.

This moment is the embryo of our day. Though it does not specifically address every engagement of our upcoming day it contains the nuclease that drives everything we will do that day. No matter what the context of our interaction we will remember our purpose and find a way to attach our actions to it. Indeed, as the day progresses its purpose unfolds and what was an embryonic thought in the morning results in a complete day, each moment fully developed. The result is a day filled with (de) light not unlike the birth of Moses, a child filled with light.

However, if our morning contemplations are not complete, if they are fleeting and cursory, or even if they are properly balanced but complications arise in our internalization of the idea, meaning we might fully understand our purpose, but allow it to remain abstract and not absorb it as the kernel that drives our entire day, then large chunks of time will waste away. The embryonic thought so beautifully conceived in the morning will miscarry; casting a disappointing day into the proverbial Nile.

The Flame of Hope

Now suppose you have determined a G-d serving purpose in your life and resolved to devote every day to it. Suppose that you successfully devoted one day to this purpose, meaning the entire day led you in one way or another toward the successful achievement of your objective. Suppose further that you successfully devoted two days, a week, a month or even two months. You are feeling good about yourself, confident that you will soon have reached your goal.

Then you fall into a funk from which you can’t pull out. Life has thrown an unforeseen curve-ball your way and in your attempts to deal with it you are distracted from your goal and can’t seem to find your way back. Now the earlier momentum of achievement is replaced with demoralizing clutches of self doubt. You were so close to your goal that you could smell and taste it, but now it seems so far away.

Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Our ancestors thought the entire Moss story was a myth when their initial expectations were dashed, but they were wrong because we can’t always anticipate the flow of events. It was a mistake for them to predict the time and manner of their redemption and because they did, they set themselves up for despair when it didn’t work out exactly that way. (5)

The same is true for us. The progress we make toward reaching our goal is not canceled out when we run into a glitch. We don’t have to start all over again; we merely need to pick up where we left off. Life’s like that. It takes us on circuitous paths and we have to hold on to hope. Our confidence must for ever endure and if it does, our strength will return. And then we will succeed.

Just like the baby of light led our ancestors to redemption so will our days of light lead us to success.

Footnotes

  1. Exodus 2: and Rashi ibid. For the entire story see also Babylonian Talmud Sotah pp. 12-13.
  2. Exodus 1: 16-22. See also Rashi’s commentary to Exodus 2:3.
  3. Exodus 3: 3-15 and Exodus 6:9. Actually the Jews did believe Moses when he first returned, but they were treated to one last disappointment when Pharaoh responded to Moses’ demand for liberation with intensifying the burden of Jewish slavery. After this G-d promised Moses that the moment of redemption was at hand, but here the legendary Jewish propensity to hold on to hope, temporarily gave out.
  4. Sefer Mamarim 5571 p. 31. Specifically in the Sefirotic sense, the seed is born in Chachma, knowledge, it meets and fertilizes the egg in Binah, understanding, it enters Pre-Embryonic state in Daat, knowledge and more specifically in Tiferet, harmony and it becomes a complete embryo in Yesod, comprehensive bonding. Finally, it is implanted into the womb in Malchut, the Divine’s majestic interplay with His world.
  5. From the story of our ancestors (especially the part referenced in footnote #3) we see that sometimes our hopes appear to be dashed at the very last moment, when success seemed virtually assured and completely at hand. The story teaches us that we must never take the next moment for granted. We must always remember that G-d might have planned one more unforeseen twist in our path and if it happens we must persevere with a firm belief in our ultimate success.
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