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Home » Life Is Beautiful, Vaeirah

Vaera: The Daily Escape

Submitted by on December 26, 2010 – 12:40 amNo Comment | 911 views

Question

Over the course of history, Jews have experienced many miraculous redemptions, but the only miracle we deliberately recall every day is the exodus from Egypt. Why is this one different?

The Torah communicates truths on many levels and when it addresses the ancient exodus it also refers to a contemporary spiritual form of exodus it therefore follows that by invoking the ancient exodus every day we are empowersed to experience its spiritual equivalent every day.

The Analogy

Let us present a hypothetical scenario to help us understand. Suppose our entire graduating class was given a million dollars as a graduation gift. Suppose we were immature and wasted it over the next ten years on pleasurable activities. Suppose further that one of our friends did not join the merrymaking. He used his money instead to fund cancer research and after ten years actually discovered a cure.

During our ten years of merrymaking we always felt bad for this friend, who missed out on all the fun. The world round cruises, world class tour packages, fine dinning and all night parties were memorable; we would always invite him, but he consistently turned us down. the daily escape - innerstreamNow, after ten years of merrymaking, our money has disappeared while his money is saving lives. Now, we realize how right he was.

We all had could have accomplished something of lasting value with our money. We could have built eternal edifices that would save lives and improve standards of living. Instead we wasted it on temporal pleasures of no real value. We used to feel bad for our friend, who failed to enjoy his money, but as it turned out we feel badly for ourselves.

The Spiritual Exodus

Our sages tell us that all of creation emanated from a single thought. The creator had one thought, which He then articulated into ten utterances and from this, the entire world was created.
 
Let us compare the value of one thought to the vast number of thoughts one can think in a lifetime. The value of a single thought is minuscule compared to the collective value of all our thoughts. Let us now compare the collective value of all our thoughts to the source of thought, the brain, which can potentially think an infinite number of thoughts. Let us further compare the value of our brain, to that of the entire person, who is capable of much more than thought and for whom thinking is merely one aspect of a much greater whole.

When we follow this line of thinking we realize that all of life’s material pleasures, combined, amount to less than one of G-d’s thoughts. We cannot possibly experience all the opportunities presented by this one thought; we have time for only one lifetime of such experiences. In all, we can enjoy a mere sliver of a single thought of an infinite capacity for thought from a Divine Creator.

On the other hand, we can embrace G-d completely and directly by observing His commandments and studying His Torah, bypassing and surpassing the Divine thought that created our world. Our sages taught that in a spiritual sense G-d fulfills every commandment that He instructs us to perform. When we fulfill the commandment we connect directly with G-d who performs precisely the same thing at the same time. It is a meeting in the ultimate sense of the word; essence to essence.

Two Options

As it turns out, we have two options in life. One is to spend it accumulating enjoyable experiences that are here today and gone tomorrow. In the ultimate scheme of things these pleasures do not amount to much in the way of true value; they are a mere sliver of a single Divine thought.

Our other option is to spend our time forging a connection with the Creator Himself. Not just enjoy the results of His single thought, but link directly with Him. If His one thought can contain so much beauty, enjoyment, power, passion and meaning, how much more so, His essence?

It is true that in this lifetime we don’t derive much in the way of physical pleasure from these commandments, but this is not always indicative of true value.  (1)

Let us return to our hypothetical scenario. Throughout the ten years we felt that we were enjoying our money while our friend was wasting it. We could not imagine throwing all that money at a vague idea. In the end, when the entire picture leaped into focus, we realized how limited our vision was. He might have missed out on some pleasurable experiences but our choice was much more limited than his.

Trapped In Selfish Emotion

Sadly there is another form of enslavement from which we require liberation. All too often we go through life trapped by self serving emotions. These include self pity that drags us down, grudges that we nurse or insecurities that inhibit us from moving forward. Many are sadly trapped by addictions and obsessions that drain all joy from life. Indulging the addiction or self serving emotion feels comforting in the moment; like a security blanket that shields us from the real world. With time we learn that we are only digging a deeper hole that traps us further.

So long as we are in the pit we derive a measure of false comfort and security from it. It is only after we claw our way out of the pit that we are able to appreciate how melancholy, dark and lonely the pit is. It is only after the exodus that we can appreciate how exhilarating and empowering liberty can be.

Transcending Self

To liberate ourselves from the choices that limit us so that we can make choices that empower us is the spiritual exodus we struggle to achieve.  We don’t have to take on all of life at once; it is sufficient to embrace the challenge day by day. Even if yesterday, yesteryear or our entire yester life was marked by limited and limiting choices, we can still find liberation in the choices we make today. Every day is an exodus. Every day can be an escape. (2)

This is why we remember the story of the exodus every day. When we reflect on how easily G-d defeated the Egyptians and liberated us from confinement we realize that He can just as easily empower us today; to overcome our limitations and to see life from a sublime point of view.

Footnotes

  1. I remember a humorous episode from my youth. I was not
    more than six years old when I traded a dollar bill for a stack of
    coins. I was convinced it was a profitable exchange, one piece of paper
    for a handful of weighty coins, till a friend informed me that the coins
    did not amount to a dollar. Sometimes in life we prefer the material
    value of the mundane over the ethereal value of the spiritual. It is
    only when our souls return to heaven that we discover our
    miscalculation. Thankfully, the Torah enables us to learn this truth in
    this world, well before it grows too late.
  2. In truth it need not be one or the other. If the
    limited choice represents a portion of a Divine thought and the
    liberating choice represents the essence of G-d then we can have both
    when we choose the latter. When you have the essence you have it all,
    including the slivers of the single thought.
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