Saturday 6 January 2018 Tevet 19 5778
Parashat Shemot by Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Exodus 1:1 – 6:1; Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23, Jer. 1:1-2:2; 1 Peter 4:12-19
In this week's Torah portion the Torah tells us "There arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph." There is a disagreement whether it was truly a new king or whether the king (Pharaoh) chose to ignore any debt of gratitude to Joseph and his people for saving Egypt and the world from the seven years of famine. Obviously, trusting in people -- especially heads of governments -- is problematic. Who do you trust? Who can you trust?
In my youth there was a television show entitled, "Who Do You Trust?" The show was not entitled "Is There Anyone You Trust?" because, in the end all of us trust in someone or something. People trust in their intelligence, their power, their charm, their knowledge, their connections, their political candidate, and in their wealth. For those who trust (or trusted...) in their wealth, it is ironic that on the American dollar bill it advises "In God We Trust."
Ultimately, what will help all of us to weather these difficult times is strengthening our trust in God. Trust in God gives a person peace of mind, the ability to relax and to be free of stress and worry. It helps one to deal with frustrations and difficulties.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Like all intelligent discussions, we first have to start with a definition. Trust in God is believing, knowing, internalizing that all that the Almighty does for us if for our good. It is knowing that the Almighty loves us greater than any love one human being can have for another person. He totally knows and understands us and our personal situations. Only the Almighty has the power to impact your situation. He has a track record. You can rely on Him. Everything the Almighty does for you is a gift; there are no strings attached.
How does one strengthen his or her trust in God? It really helps if you keep a notebook and write down your thoughts. Let's look at some of the components of Trust in God and what we can do:
1) The Almighty Loves You
Make a list of all that the Almighty has done for you in the past -- your health, your family, your physical and mental abilities. By writing a list you won't take things for granted nor overlook even the little or constant blessings He has bestowed upon you.
2) All that the Almighty does is for your good
He knows your needs. Write down all of the times you thought that the Almighty was wrong; that you didn't get what you want -- yet, it turned out better than had you gotten what you wanted.
3) Only the Almighty has the power to help you
Record those times in your life when you put your trust in another human being and you were disappointed. The person didn't come through for you, the inside tip turned out to be false, your friend or boss changed his mind. Then record all of the times that you thought the situation was hopeless, all was lost – and things worked out or you were saved. Repeating to oneself "There is no other power than the Almighty" strengthens one's belief and calms the spirit.
Seven Principles for Trusting in God
1. The Creator of the universe loves me more than anybody else in the world possibly can.
2. The Almighty is aware of all my struggles, desires and dreams. All I need is to ask Him for help.
3. The Almighty has the power to give me anything I want.
4. There is no other power in the universe other than the Almighty. Only He can grant me success and give me what I want.
5. The Almighty has a track record for giving me more than I am asking for.
6. The Almighty gives with no strings attached. I don't need to earn it or deserve it. He will give it to me anyway.
7. The Almighty knows what is best for me and everything He does is only for my good.
This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse.
Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"
When Moshe was told by the Almighty that he would be the leader to approach Pharaoh to demand freedom for the Israelites, Moshe replied: "Please my Master, send anyone else" (Exodus 4:13). Why did Moshe seek to avoid this position of leadership?
The Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, explains that Moshe told the Almighty to send anyone else because he believed that any other person in the world would be more fitting than Moshe for this mission.
At first glance this is puzzling. How could Moshe sincerely have thought of himself as unworthy? Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin explained that even if a person is very intelligent and wise and has accomplished very much, he nevertheless might not be working as hard as he should. With his talents and abilities, he might have accomplished a lot more if he tried harder. On the other hand, a person who has accomplished little is perhaps doing all that he can. This person is reaching his potential. However, an accomplished person might be far from reaching his potential.
For this reason, Moshe felt he was unworthy. In his humility, he thought that he was further from fulfilling his potential than everyone else.
This is a lesson for two types of people. Those who feel arrogant and conceited because of their great intellect and accomplishments should be aware that perhaps they are far from reaching their potential. This should lessen their inflated feelings about themselves.
For this exact same reason, those who are trying very hard and put forth great effort should not feel envious or disheartened when they see others apparently accomplishing more than them.
One's true spiritual level cannot be measured by any mortal. There is no accurate objective means of evaluating any person. The true level of each person is based entirely on effort and this only the Almighty can measure.
25See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." 27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.