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Vaera-FREEDOM FROM THE PAST AND IN THE FUTURE

FREEDOM FROM THE PAST AND IN THE FUTURE

by Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz, Rabbi of Kefar Haroeh

 

“He commanded them about Bnei Yisrael” [Shemot 6:13].

 

What were the details of this commandment? Different answers have been given, most of them related to the Torah portion itself. For example:

 

“He commanded them to lead the people with tolerance and patience” [Rashi];

“To lead the people even if they (Moshe and Aharon) were stoned and cursed” [Rashi, Bamidbar 11:12].

 

There is even one far reaching explanation that includes in this command the laws of freeing slaves (Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashana 3:5), evidently expressing a feeling that it is not proper for people who have just been freed from slavery to keep others in bondage. A different explanation seems at first glance to be quite far-fetched: “He commanded them to prepare trees to be used in the Tabernacle” [Shemos Rabboh].

Is this all they have to think about at this early stage of the process of redemption?

 Every nation has a desire for the freedom to enable the accomplishment of tasks which are not possible for a nation of slaves. Such tasks are not necessarily moral acts. For example, Egypt seems to have been a free country, but it abused the gift of freedom to exploit the suffering and toil of slaves to build magnificent edifices. Not every example of freedom brings with it justice and morality.

 

The example which Bnei Yisrael saw before their eyes did not necessarily mean that they would know how to take proper advantage of their eventual freedom for exalted purposes. It was therefore necessary to acquaint the people from the very beginning with the important tasks which lay ahead, and this is what the Almighty did in his command to Moshe and Aharon. The commandment is a continuation from the Torah portion of last week, when Moshe was told: “You shall worship G-d on this mountain” [Shemos 3:12].

 In the last 70 years, many nations of the “Third World” achieved their independence. Almost without exception, the desire for freedom developed simultaneously with a desire to escape from the scourge of oppression. And almost without exception, these new nations found that in the end they replaced one form of oppression with another,sometimes from within and sometimes from without. One of the rare exceptions to this rule is Israel, where social and cultural problems are related to personal and national freedom and not to oppression, not just a desire to disband the yoke of the past but also to choose the correct style of life in the future.

 When Moshe demanded of Pharaoh: “Let my people go” [Shemos 7:16], he immediately added: “so that they can serve me.” He also made demands of the Children of Israel: “He commanded them to prepare trees to be used in the Tabernacle” [Shemos Rabbah].

 Before the nation became free, the people knew that they would have to be prepared to accept the Divine presence among them in order to be truly free.

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