Friday, January 30, 2009

Personal Thoughts about Parshas Bo

At the beginning of this week's parsha, the Jews took a circuitous route out of Egypt. It is noted that this lessened the likelihood of a faint hearted return to Egypt. In looking back on my own life, it seems that the long and winding road made me appreciate success all the more. Sometimes I owe a lesson in life well learned to a struggle connected with it. My difficulties with learning in particular made it easy for me to have empathy with my children. Being behaviorally difficult and having problems with learning was irreplaceable training for parenthood.

At the end of the parsha was an episode which troubled me greatly for years. In it, Moshe held up his hands during the battle with Amelek. When he did so, thebattle went well for bnei Yisrael. When his strength flagged and his hands lowered, then Amelek made gains in battle . The Jews noted this and brought a rock upon which Moshe rested his harms in an upright position. When he did this, the tide in battle turned towards bnei Yisrael.

For years I found this troubling. How could Moshe holding his hands up override all of the other considerations in battle. And conversely, how could his hands becoming heavy turn the tide against even the most valiant efforts?

A close examination of this episode seems to harmonise reliance upon the tsadik, the holy leader of the generation and focusing upon collective and individual good deeds.

We have seen in modern history that a leader can have a transformative effect upon society. Unfortunately, most examples of this phenomenon, such as Hitler and Stalin are negative. Our belief in the messianic redemption is a belief in a leader who will brigng out the good in humanity as openly as wickedness was brought out in the past.

I can not believe that the rock upon which Moshe rested his arms was only a rock. On the literal level, when it was moved, it became a functional object. The solution to the problem came from Moshe's aides. It is not recorded that Moshe asked for support.

What is critical is the theme that the strengths of the leader must be supplemented. The deeds of the people and the institutions guided by the Torah brought down by the leader of the generation are critical. They form the foundation upon which the intervention of the tsadik rests.
The people need the focus and guidance provided by a leader. A leader's greatness is ultimately derived from the people he leads. A nation that passively waits for a miracle worker to deliver them will eventually come to worship the leader and forget about G-d. The relation between the Jewish nation and the tsadik keeps both sides humble and gives G-d an opening through which to shine.

We are a generation of many leaders. In the past, this was a curse, as it seems to be today. The greatest miracle of this generation seems to be two fold, in which G-d saves us from ruthless enemies and from ourselves. This seems to be a recurring theme in Israel's wars and conflicts. Yet again we are heeding advice to have a ceasefire. This idea comes from superpowers who are themselves intimidated and fearful.

May it be G-d's will that Moshiach come speedily in a manner that extinguishes all doubt of his identity. May Moshiach and the Jewish people speedily bring perfection and harmony to a suffering world.

Good Shabbos

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