Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
Rabbi Benjamin Yudin

The World is Mine

In parshas Bo (Shemos 12:51), we read with excitement "it happened on that very day, Hashem took the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt." The Exodus is not only at the root of our performance of many mitzvos (tefillin, sukkah, Shabbos), but indeed it is the first of the aseres hadibros (Ten Commandments) wherein we are commanded to believe in G-d "Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery" (Shemos 20:2).

Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l, the Alter of Slabodka, highlights the connection between the Exodus and Hashem as the Creator. The question is asked why Hashem did not introduce Himself as the Creator in the first of the aseres hadibros? Rav Finkel suggests that in fact, He does, as the Exodus sheds new light on creation.

The rabbis inform us that the back-breaking servitude ended months before the actual exodus (Rosh Hashanah 11a). Why, then, were we kept for an additional half year? To learn of the personal relationship that each individual has with Hashem. The nine plagues that preceded the killing of the first-born were not only punitive to the Egyptians (measure for measure), but were also educational for the Jewish nation. The Jews were taught through the plagues which preceded the Exodus that not only there is a G-d Who "plays a role in the midst of the land" (Shemos 8:18), but also that He is the Creator and creates, on an ongoing basis, a personalized creation for each individual.

Rav Finkel cites the following examples of a personalized creation for each individual within the plagues:

  1. Regarding the plague of Blood: not only did Hashem distinguish the Jewish nation by maintaining their water supply as water and transforming the water to blood for the Egyptians, but also if a Jew and Egyptian were drinking from a glass with two straws at the very same moment, the Jew continued to drink water, and the Egyptian blood. This is a personalized act of creation. That a Jew was able to sell water to an Egyptian showed a personalized act of creation on the part of Hashem for the Jew at that moment.
  2. Regarding the plague of Dever: Moshe warns Pharaoh (Shemos 9:4) "not a thing that belongs to the children of Israel will die". Thus if an Egyptian had one animal that he had stolen from a Jew amidst his hundred animals, ninety-nine died but one survived. Even if the Jew had only part ownership in an animal, it did not die. These were personalized acts of His Hashgacha Pratis- Divine Providence.
  3. The hail, we are taught, was a miracle within a miracle. Not only was the intensity of the hail unprecedented, but fire and water/ice were intermingled, co-existing to perform the will of Hashem (Shemos Rabbah 12:4). Hashem created this new phenomenon to punish the Egyptians, and to teach the Jewish nation that He not only "renews creation on a daily basis" (as we recite every morning at the conclusion of the first blessing before the Shema) but He renews creation at every moment for each individual.
  4. In the plague of darkness, each Egyptian was paralyzed due to the intensity of the darkness, and each Jew had the gift of creation to function in his usual way. Similarly, the splitting of the Red Sea included personalized acts of creation in that it was dry land for each Jew and water for each Egyptian.

Thus, when Hashem mentions the Exodus in the first of the aseres hadibros, He is not only reminding the Jewish People of the favor they owe Him for liberating them from slavery. Rather, He is informing them that He has a personalized relationship with every individual and renews creation constantly for each one personally. The Hakaras Hatov (personal appreciation) that one must have is truly "kol haneshama t'hallel ka" (Psalms 150:6) - al kol nishima v'nishima- for every breath, we owe Him a thank you.

In this same vein, we are taught in Sanhedrin (37A) "that each individual is obligated to say and believe that the world was created for me" and Ben Zoma (Brachos 58A) teaches that a good guest says "how much trouble my Host took for my sake." Just as the Torah states (Braishis 32:32) "the sun rose for him" (Yaakov), each Jew is to feel gratitude daily to Hashem for his sunrise. Indeed, each morning the bracha is in the present "Who spreads out the earth upon the waters" because there is an ongoing creation.

Too often people lack a personalized relationship with Hashem. If we only realized that all day long there is a tailor-made personal creation for each of us, we would connect very differently with prayer.

I believe that this has a very practical lesson for all. Not only in terms of our personal belief and relationship, but in the way we relate to others. Schools open with the promise of personalized attention for each student. Most often the system itself doesn't allow this to occur. Hashem is the exception. Thus the directive, the 611th mitzvah of v'halachta b'drachav- to walk in His ways- is not only to do kindness, but to act to each individual, child, and student, differently, realizing that they are unique. The rule with Hashem is that there is no limiting set of rules.

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