From Slumberland to Wonderland | Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

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From Slumberland to Wonderland

By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

The soul longs for a closer connection with its essence and every mitzvah is meant to help us towards this goal. The problem is that there are so many distractions in the real world that our mitzvos become cold and without their sparks we fail to ignite our troubled hearts.

However, Hashem affords us windows of opportunity where we can regroup our spiritual hopes and refocus on what is true. The period when we read the beginning portions of the book of Shmos is just such a time; called Shovovim, it refers to the first initials of the weekly readings from Shmos through Mishpatim.  These days are meant to inspire us in becoming more in sync with the holiness and spirituality of a Torah lifestyle. In these special days our efforts towards creating holiness within ourselves is given special help from on high, and “Guta Yiden” have always spoken of such matters during this period.

I was in the Holy Land a few weeks ago and had an opportunity to speak to a number of special Yidden about how they saw the situation of Klal Yisroel. We do face new challenges and it is no easy task to navigate the turbulent waters that we find ourselves in. Time and again the problem of spiritual coldness came up. In our times where so much Torah is taught and our ranks swell daily there is a certain tendency to become calcified in our observance, not really challenging ourselves towards growth. Kain Ayin Horah there are tens of thousands where once there was but a handful, yet the fire seems to get dampened at times and we are all aware of our losses.

Remorse can’t mean being stuck in what went before, because then that becomes your prison.

In last week’s Parsha Vaeira we read “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” The Gerrer Rebbe Ztl points out that the Hebrew word “sivlos” means not only “burden” but also “tolerance”. Therefore the passage can be read as “I will deliver you from being tolerant of Egypt.” We can all learn from this nuance in the words. It is very easy to become tolerant of a bad situation, and this is no small form of slavery. We stumble through life tolerating the coldness in our hearts, not being able to stir ourselves from our slumber. These auspicious days are calling us to wake up and rekindle our souls so we can feel our Torah in everything we do.

Whilst in Eretz Yisroel I had the pleasure to spend a few days in Bnei Brak. Every morning I would wake up early so that I could sit at the window and watch the holy city wake up. As the sun rose Yidden could be seen coming out of their homes with tallis and tefilin, the few soon became a flood, and soon the whole area was alive with the sound of feet moving to do Hashem’s Will. This was just a preamble to what was for me the main event. At one point the tide changed and the street became filled with Kinderlach, hundreds of holy children running to go to cheder and Beis Yaakov. It’s a glorious sight, all these lovely faces intent on getting to their teachers on time, groups of older sisters shepherding their younger siblings, each one pulling their books in bags with roller wheels. All their voices melding with the cacophony of those wheels became to any one listening a symphony of celestial beauty.

We have what no nation can even hope for, and in truth what no previous generation experienced. Millions of holy souls have been entrusted to our generation but with this comes a huge responsibility. We owe these children that flame; we owe it to them and to ourselves.

So how do we go about kindling our fire? Well, first we must let go of the old lethargy and wake up to a new tomorrow. Whilst in Bnei Brak I had the occasion to hear a vort from the Kuzimer Rebbe. He was talking about the advent of Shovovim and said that in Shmos we are introduced to Moshe Rabbenu. The name Moshe can stand for “Mah Shhoya hoya” which means “what was was”. This means that what has happened has happened and that to grow one must learn to leave the past behind. Remorse can’t mean being stuck in what went before, because then that becomes your prison. Moshe takes the Yidden out of the prison of Egypt, by allowing them to leave the past behind. Whenever they would fail, whenever they would falter they would dwell back in their past, even if it was a false impression of that earlier period.

The Kotzker has a lovely insight into the first few words of Parshas Bo. Hashem tells Moshe “Bo El Paroh”; Come to Paroh. Shouldn’t he have said “Go to Paroh”? The Kotzker Rebbe says this teaches us an important lesson. Wherever we are and whatever we face we should never feel like we need Hashem to come with us. That is because the place to which we are going, no matter how vacant it seems or how far removed it appears from Hashem’s presence, nevertheless He is already there. In good times and bad. Both in the gas chambers and the Batei Knesses, Hashem is there. Even in the lowest place of all, the palace of King Paroh, Hashem says to Moshe, “Come to Paroh’s palace.” I am there already and waiting for you.

This is a powerful thought. We may be afraid to wake up, to let go of the dark past and turn towards a new spiritual venture. We think that we are alone and without any hope, but in truth, Hashem is there already waiting for us.

It’s not easy, but then why should it be.