Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )
GOOD MORNING! Life is often challenging, hard, difficult. We face obstacles and rejection. What do we do? How do we handle these situations? I had the good fortune to hear a talk on how to pass life's tests with flying colors by Lori Palatnick, the head of The Jewish Women's Renaissance Project (jwrp.org). Entitled "Testing 1-2-3," you may listen to it or download it from AishAudio.com.
Few of us like tests. However, what if your child comes home from school and tells you that he has the greatest science teacher this year -- he's too busy to grade tests, so there won't be any tests the whole year! Likely, you'd be heading for the phone to call the principal. Why? Tests ensure that your child pays attention to the material, does the assignments and achieves the ultimate that he can achieve in the subject. No tests, the child will likely slack off and learn little.
However, when WE get a test in life -- be it health, economic, interpersonal -- we ask "Why is this happening to me?" Why does the Almighty send us a test? Because He loves us and He wants us to get the most out of life, to develop ourselves and our character, to have the greatest life possible and to achieve our potential. The Talmud tells us that the Almighty does not send us a test that we cannot handle.
How do you know it's a test? If it's hard. Test are tailored made for each individual. It may be hard for one person, but not for another. Know that the choice you make will determine whether you get closer to reaching your potential or further away. Think back to a difficult situation. Beforehand you might have thought that you couldn't handle it, yet you did -- and you grew tremendously from it. We only grow from that which is difficult and challenging. We draw upon something inside of us that we didn't know we had.
People think that they are being punished with bad things. The Torah teaches us that ultimate reward and punishment are not in this world, but in the next world, the World to Come (Mesilat Yesharim, Path of the Just, ch.1). In this world, it is not punishment; He's teaching you a lesson, giving you a message. If you gave tzedakah (charity) and your stocks went up -- it's not a reward, but a message that you are using your money properly and here's more to use wisely. Likewise, if you misused your wealth and your stocks declined.
It is important to understand that what happens to you may be bitter, painful, but it is not necessarily bad. It depends on how you view what happens and how you respond to it. Bad is what takes you away from a connection with the Almighty.
There are four categories of tests that can easily be remembered with the acronym G-CAM -- "God's camera" -- He's watching how you use your opportunity to grow:
Giver vs. Taker -- Someone needs help, but it interferes with your desires or plans. Do you help or not? If it is a hard decision, it is a test. You have to realize it's a test and verbally say, "This is a test ... and I choose to be a ______." We all have the ability to rationalize, but as nationally renowned speaker Bob Burg says, "Rationalize -- are rational lies."
Connection vs. Estrangement -- Is this going to bring me closer or further away to the person? If it's with one's spouse or children, then this is the test. For example, your spouse co-signed a loan for cousin deadbeat without even discussing it with you. Now he tells you that the money saved for your vacation has to be used to pay back the defaulted loan. How do you react? If you realize it is a test and you choose Connection -- verbally saying "This is a test and I choose Connection", then you grow. If you choose to berate, criticize, fight ... then you have failed the test. God sent you this situation to help you grow.
You can't change people, you can only change your reaction to them. Once you change your reaction, it creates the situation that the person can change. Patience, understanding, empathetic, supportive -- it makes you a better person and allows the other person to change, improve.
Acceptance vs. Rejection -- You just lost a lot of money or received a diagnosis of cancer. You either accept or reject that the news is from the Almighty. You have to stop and say, "This is a test sent to me by God because He loves me and wants me to be great ... and I choose ______." If you choose Rejection, then you will respond with "woe is me," worry, fear, anger, anxiety, resentment vs. Acceptance and having a clear calm mind -- not necessarily elated and happy and joyful. However, with Acceptance you can now make a decision, with a settled mind and you can access your inner wisdom.
My Will vs. God's Will -- You have made a spiritual or ethical commitment. Along comes desire. What do you choose? This is our free will battle -- body vs. soul. The body wants to indulge ... the soul wants greatness! You make the right choice you go up the ladder, the wrong choice, you go down the ladder. You have to verbally say, "This is a test sent to me by God because He loves me and wants me to be great. I choose _______."
90% towards passing the test is realizing it is a test -- and not acting emotionally and blaming others. 5% is knowing the category of the test, 5% is what you choose. You will not go wrong choosing to do the right thing. However, in any event, you are better off knowing that you are making a choice and understanding why you made it and the consequences.
Va'eira, Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups: 1) the water turning to blood, frogs, lice 2) wild beasts, pestilence/epidemic, boils 3) hail, locust, and darkness.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery: 1) The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers. 2) The second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority. 3) The third in each group imposed physical suffering.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Pharaoh sent word and summoned Moses and Aaron. He said to them, 'I have sinned this time. The Almighty is righteous. I and my people are wicked! ... I will let you leave. You will not be delayed again.' "
Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh refused to let them leave.
Why did Pharaoh change his mind once the pressure of the plague was removed? Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva explained that Pharaoh viewed suffering as a punishment. That is why he said, "The Almighty is a righteous judge and His punishment is fair because I have done evil."
The reality is that there is a strong element of kindness in the suffering that the Almighty sends to us. In part, it is a divine message that we have something to improve. The goal of suffering is to motivate a person to improve his behavior. Pharaoh viewed suffering only as a punishment. Therefore, as soon as the punishment was over, he changed his mind and refused to let them leave.
Our lesson: View suffering as a means to elevate yourself and you will find meaning in your suffering. Try to accept it with love and appreciation. Even though there is still pain involved, it is much easier to cope. Whenever you find yourself suffering, ask yourself, "How can I use this as a tool for self-improvement?"
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Guatemala 5:30 - Hong Kong 5:38 - Honolulu 5:48
J'Burg 6:46 - London 3:52 - Los Angeles 4:42
Melbourne 8:27 - Mexico City 5:56 - Miami 5:28
New York 4:27 - Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 4:40
When you have nothing left but God,
then you become aware that God is enough