Current Issue

 Click here to subscribe.

Share

Search
BeisMoshiach.org
Web
Tags
"Misnagdim” #1000 #1001 #1002 #1003 #1004 #1005 #1006 #1007 #1008 #1009 #1010 #1011 #1012 #1013 #1014 #1015 #1016 #1017 #1018 #1019 #1020 #1021 #1022 #1023 #1024 #1025 #1026 #1027 #1028 #1029 #1030 #1031 #1032 #1033 #1034 #1035 #1036 #1037 #1038 #1039 #1040 #1041 #1042 #1043 #1044 #1045 #1046 #1047 #1048 #1049 #1050 #1051 #1052 #1053 #1054 #1055 #1056 #1057 #1058 #1059 #1060 #1061 #1062 #1063 #1064 #1065 #1066 #1067 #1068 #1069 #1070 #1071 #1072 #1073 #1074 #1075 #1076 #1077 #1078 #1079 #1080 #1081 #1082 #1083 #1084 #1085 #1086 #1088 #1089 #1090 #1091 #1092 #1093 #1094 #1095 #1096 #1097 #1098 #1099 #1100 #1101 #1102 #1103 #1104 #1106 #1107 #1108 #1109 #1110 #1111 #1112 #1113 #1114 #1115 #1116 #1117 #1118 #1119 #1120 #1121 #1122 #1123 #1124 #1125 #1126 #1127 #1128 #1129 #1130 #1131 #1132 #1133 #1134 #1135 #1136 #1137 #1138 #1139 #1140 #1141 #1142 #1143 #1144 #1145 #1146 #1147 #1148 #1149 #1150 #1151 #1152 #1153 #1154 #1155 #1156 #1157 #1158 #1159 #1160 #1161 #1162 #1163 #1164 #1165 #1166 #1167 #1168 #1169 #1170 #1171 #1172 #1173 #1174 #1175 #1176 #1177 #1178 #1179 #1180 #1181 #1182 #1183 #318 #319 #350 #383 #390 #550 #560 #594 #629 #642 #776 #777 #778 #779 #780 #781 #782 #783 #784 #785 #786 #787 #820 #823 #824 #825 #826 #827 #828 #829 #830 #831 #832 #833 #834 #835 #836 #837 #838 #839 #840 #841 #842 #843 #844 #845 #846 #847 #848 #849 #850 #851 #852 #853 #854 #855 #856 #857 #858 #859 #860 #861 #862 #863 #864 #865 #866 #867 #868 #869 #870 #871 #872 #873 #874 #875 #876 #876 #877 #878 #879 #880 #881 #882 #883 #884 #885 #886 #887 #888 #889 #890 #891 #892 #893 #894 #895 #896 #897 #898 #899 #900 #901 #902 #903 #904 #905 #906 #907 #908 #909 #910 #911 #912 #913 #914 #915 #916 #917 #918 #919 #920 #921 #922 #923 #924 #925 #926 #927 #928 #929 #930 #931 #932 #933 #934 #935 #936 #937 #938 #939 #940 #941 #942 #943 #944 #945 #946 #947 #948 #949 #950 #951 #952 #953 #954 #955 #956 #957 #958 #959 #960 #961 #962 #963 #964 #965 #966 #967 #968 #969 #970 #971 #972 #973 #974 #975 #976 #977 #978 #979 #980 #981 #982 #983 #984 #985 #986 #987 #988 #989 #990 #991 #992 #993 #994 #995 #996 #997 #998 #999 1 Kislev 10 Kislev 10 Shvat 10 Shvat 10 Teives 11 11 Nissan 112 Tammuz 12 Tammuz 13 Iyar 13 Tishrei 14 Kislev 15 Elul 15 Menachem-Av 15 Shvat 17 Tammuz 18 Elul 19 Kislev 2 Iyar 20 Av 20 Mar-Cheshvan 20 Menachem-Av 22 Shvat 24 Teives 25 Adar 27 Adar 28 Nissan 28 Teives 29 Elul 3 3 Tammuz 33 Tammuz 352 5 Teives 6 Tishrei 7 Adar 770 864 865 881 9 Adar 9 Av 9 Kislev 903 Acharei Acharei-K'doshim Achdus Adar Ahavas Yisroel Alef-Beis All Jews Shall Rise Alter Rebbe Amalek Argentina Arizal army Artwork Aseres HaDibros Australia Avoda Zara B’Chukosai B’Shalach Baal Shem Tov baal t'shuva Baba Sali Balak BaMidbar bar mitzva Basi L'Gani B'Chukosai be Bein HaMeitzarim Beis HaMikdash Beis Nissan Beth Rivkah B'Haalos'cha B'Har B'Har-B'Chukosai Birthday Bitachon Blindness Bo B'rachos Brazil brit milah Brussels B'Shalach Canada chai v'kayam Chanuka Chassidic Rabbis Chayei Sara Chernobil chesed Chevron children chinuch Chitas Choshen Chukas Churban controversy convert Dan Diary of the late R’ Saadya Maatuf Dollars dreams D''varim Editorial Editor's Corner Eikev Elections Elul Emor Europe Family Purity fire France free choice Gaza Gentiles Georgia Gulf War Gush Katif Haazinu Hakhel Halvayas Hameis Hashavas Aveida HaYom Yom Hebron hiskashrus Holy Temple Honesty Honoring Parents Hospitality IDF Igrot Kodesh India Intermarriage Internet Iran Iron Curtain Israel Japan Jewish Refugee Crisis Kabbala K'doshim Kfar Chabad Ki Savo Ki Seitzei Ki Sisa KIDDUSH LEVANA Kiryat Gat Kislev kKi Sisa Kohen Gadol Korach korbanos KOS SHEL BRACHA Krias Shma K'vutza Lag B'Omer lashon ha'ra Lech Lecha letter Litvishe maamer Machatzis HaShekel mahn Mar-Cheshvan marriage Massei Matot Mattos Mattos-Massei Menachem Av Menora Metzora Mexico Mezuzah Miami MiKeitz MIkvah Mishkan Mishpatim Mitteler Rebbe Mitzva Tank Mitzvah Tanks Mivtza Kashrus MIvtza Neshek Mivtza T’fillin Mivtza Tefilin Morocco Moshe Rabbeinu Moshiach & Geula Moshiach Seuda music Names Napoleon Naso Nazi Holocaust niggunim Nissan Nitzavim Nitzavim-VaYeilech Noach Noachide North Africa olive oil painting Parshas Parah parshas re'eh Parshas Zachor Pesach Pesach Sheini Pinchas Pirkei Avos P'kudei Poland prayer Prison prophecy Purim R’ Avrohom Schneersohn Rabbanus Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Rabbi Shlomo Galperin Rambam Ramban Rashbi Rashi Rebbe Rebbe Maharash Rebbe Rashab Rebbe Rayatz Rebbe Rayatz & Joint Rebbetzin Chana Rebbetzin Chaya Muska Rebbetzin Rivka Red Heifer Reform movement R'ei Rishon L'Tzion Rosh Chodesh Rosh HaShana Russia S’firas HaOmer Samarkand seifer Torah s'firas ha'omer Shabbos Shabbos Bereishis Shabbos Chazo Shabbos Chazon Shabbos Hagadol Shabbos Nachamu shalom bayis Shavuos Shekalim shiduchim Shlach shleimus ha'Aretz shliach shlichus Shmini Shmita Shmos Shoftim shtus Shvat simcha Simchas Torah South Africa Sukkos summer summer camp tahalucha Talmud Torah Tanya Tazria-Metzora te Tefila Tehilim Teives Terror teshuva Tetzaveh t'fillin the soul tisha b'av Tishrei Toldos Tomchei T'mimim Truma t'shuva tTruma Tzanz Tzav Tzedaka Tzemach Tzedek Tzfas tzimtzum Tzitzis Tzniyus Ukraine undefined Upsherinish VaEira VaEs'chanan VaYakhel VaYakhel-P’kudei VaYechi VaYeilech VaYeira VaYeishev VaYeitzei VaYigash VaYikra VaYishlach Vocational Schools Winter women Yechidus Yerushalayim Yeshiva Yisro Yom Kippur Yom Tov Zionism Zohar Zos HaBracha. B'Reishis סיביר
Visitor Feed
Wednesday
Jan022013

NAMES, LANGUAGE, SLANDER AND CHASTITY

When we become slaves to our passions and our morals are loose, we lose our status as inherently free people. * Moshiach gains mastery over his material interest. This means that to cultivate the internal Moshiach—which is the catalyst to reveal the external Moshiach—we must exercise control over our inner “donkey.”

THE “HEAD” VERSE

The book of Exodus introduces us to the saga of Egyptian bondage and the Exodus through which we became a nation. And, although the book begins with the bondage, the book in its entirety is referred to as “the Book of Liberation” (or “Exodus”). This indicates that even the part that deals with the bondage contains the seeds for the liberation. And it stands to reason that an allusion would be made to this theme of liberation in the opening verse. The beginning of a book is much like the head/brain of a body that contains the life force of the entire body. Accordingly, the head of Exodus contains within it the information needed for the Exodus.

And since the Exodus from Egypt is seen by our Sages as the paradigm for the future Redemption, the opening verse can, therefore, be seen as the key to understanding what we must do now to activate the process of liberation.

The first verse reads: “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each man came with his household.”

What message does this verse contain that is the key to understanding the process of Redemption? At first glance this verse is rather prosaic, serving only as an introduction to the names of Jacob’s sons, discussed in the following verses.

THE FOUR VIRTUES

The Midrash (VaYikra Rabba) states that there were four factors that were responsible for the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt: a) They did not change their names; b) They did not change their language; c) They did not slander one another; d) They were not unchaste.

These virtues empowered them to withstand the pressures of exile and were the key to their liberation. And if we carefully scrutinize this introductory verse, we can find hints to all four of these virtues.

The word Shmos-names, which is the name of this week’s parsha and of the entire book of Exodus, stresses the fact that the children of Israel maintained their names. As the Midrash states: “They entered Egypt with these names and they left Egypt with these names.”

The fact that they are referred to here as B’nei Yisroel, the children of Israel, and not B’nei Yaakov, the children of Jacob, alludes to their national identity. They were not just a family, but a nation. What was it that made them a nation? It was their common language.

Now, their description as “the children of Israel” actually suggests two unifying features:

First, as was stated, they spoke the same language. We have already learned in the Tower of Babel narrative that the division of humanity into disparate nations occurred when people no longer spoke the same language. The fact that the children of Jacob are designated here as belonging to one nation— “the children of Israel”—suggests that they were one nation with one language.

Second: They are referred to here as the sons of Israel and not sons of Jacob. The name Jacob is associated with subterfuge, evasion, crookedness, going in a circuitous fashion and being subordinate to others. Jacob, therefore, had to resort to guile to receive the blessings from his father, although he was entitled to them by virtue of his purchase of the birthright from Esau. Israel, by contrast, implies directness, nobility, integrity and being a master of one’s life.

The foregoing difference between Jacob and Israel can also be applied to language. To refer to the children of Jacob as “the children of Israel” exemplifies the nobility of the language of the Jewish people even in Egyptian exile. There was no slander and divisive language.

And finally, when the Torah states in the opening verse that “each man came with his household” the implication is that the integrity of the family was intact. They did not degenerate into the corrupt mores of the Egyptian people.

IDENTITY, PERSPECTIVE, ESSENTIAL UNITY, MASTERY

To better understand these four virtues and how they relate to Redemption, we ought to reflect on their underlying character.

The virtue of not changing their names suggests that their identities were intact. The worst part of slavery is arguably the loss of identity. A slave is just chattel; he is no different from his master’s house or animal. Even the most benign form of slavery is still slavery; the slave has no identity.

However, even when someone strips us of our legal identity and denies us the ability to be who we are, it is crucial that we do not accept that for ourselves. Frequently, people who lose their identity internalize that loss and embrace the identity of their captors. Today, this is known as the “Stockholm Syndrome,” where the hostage accepts his role as an extension of his captor and ceases to consider himself an independent human being.

The fact that the Jewish people did not change their names was their way of not accepting the status that was imposed on them. They were never truly slaves and, therefore, they were capable of being liberated.

However, one can be free in terms of his or her essential identity, but still embrace the nomenclature and thought process of slavery. There are many Jews, tragically, who have adopted the language of the culture in which they live. And though they may proud of their Jewish heritage they still think in non-Jewish terms. Maimonides writes in a letter that one could use the Holy Tongue for vulgar and non-Jewish themes, whereas a secular language can be the vehicle for the conveyance of holy teachings. Not changing our language is more about not changing the way we think about matters than the grammatical structure and vocabulary of that language. The Chassidic scholar, Rabbi Zalman Posner, authored a book entitled Speak English, but Think Jewish, echoing Maimonides’ sentiment that the essential thing in language is the value system behind it.

To cite a few examples: Some think of the rabbi as the Jewish equivalent of the minister; the synagogue as the Jewish parallel of a non-Jewish house of worship; Chanukah as the Jewish version of the non-Jewish winter holiday etc. And nowhere is this distortion more evident than in the subject of Redemption and Moshiach, which some Jews conceive of in non-Jewish terms.

Thus, not changing their language means that they not only maintained their Jewish identity, but also their conception of Jewish ideas; their thought processes remained Jewish.

INHERENT UNITY

However, we could still be in exile if we are fragmented and in conflict with one another. Our unity denies our enemy the ability to crush and enslave us. We are more powerful united not only because our ideas and values are superior to our oppressors, but because we also enjoy a quantitative edge over them. Our adversaries are never truly united, for each one is driven by his ego, which conflicts with the ego of the other oppressor’s ego. Their unity is a contrived and temporary one. No sooner do they reach their goal, do they split into warring factions. Coalitions of evil do not represent true unity,

By contrast, when the Jewish people act with love and respect toward one another, exemplified by the absence of slander amongst them, it is a reflection of an inner harmony and unity that results in their greater numbers rather than the disparate forces of their enemy.

However, even when we are proud Jews, speaking like Jews and united, we can still be in exile when the purity of our family life is compromised. When we become slaves to our passions and our morals are loose, we lose our status as inherently free people. Resisting the seductive influences surrounding the Jews in Egyptian bondage demonstrated that they had remained inherently free people even though they were in exile. Moreover, when the family unit is strong it can withstand the pressures of exile.

THE FOUR CUPS OF WINE

It may be suggested that these four virtues—representing the four manifestations of inner freedom that empowered them to ultimately be freed—correspond to the four cups of wine we drink at the Seder. These four cups, the Talmud tells us, correspond to the four expressions of Redemption that the Torah employs in next week’s parsha. It may be suggested that these four expressions relate to the four areas that must be cultivated for us to be redeemed: We must know who we are; speak and think in Jewish terms; recognize our inherent Jewish unity and gain mastery over our desires.

In contemporary terms, keeping our names means more than having and using our Jewish names. It also means that we should know that our most essential identity is that we are Jews. While we can alter virtually anything else that identifies us—such as our political views, our affiliations etc.—we cannot alter our essential identity as Jews.

This realization must be followed by the recognition that as Jews, we have to think about everything in Jewish terms. To achieve this “brain transplant” we must study Torah, which has the capacity to condition us to think as Jews.

The third element that leads to Redemption is unity. Notwithstanding our legitimate differences, we are inherently one with and connected to the Jew that is most distant from us, geographically, politically, emotionally, intellectually and even religiously. We are truly one people! And as one people there is no force in the world that can prevent us from marching towards the final Redemption.

And the fourth and final aspect of Redemption is gaining control of our own animal soul. Moshiach is described as “riding on a donkey.” The Hebrew word for donkey also means “materialism.” The Maharal explains that Moshiach gains mastery over his material interest. This means that to cultivate the internal Moshiach—which is the catalyst to reveal the external Moshiach—we must exercise control over our inner “donkey.”

 

Reader Comments (1)

I always wondered what was the significance in those things that the Jews merited to leave Egypt. This article gave a lot to chew on ... fascinating! Thank you, Rabbi Greenberg, so much!
Dec 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterN D

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.