Va’era 2019

In the opening verses of Va’era, the Al-mighty informed Moses that He had established a covenant with the patriarchs to give them the land of Canaan. Furthermore, God states that He has heard the groans of the Children of Israel who are enslaved in Egypt, and that He has remembered His covenant.

It is clear that God is about to intervene on behalf of His people.

In Exodus 6:6-7, God declares, “Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, I am the Lord: וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם, וְהִצַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲבֹדָתָם, וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבִשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים. וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם, וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵא־לֹקִים, וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי השׁם אֱ־לֹקֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם , I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a God to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem, the o-rd your God, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt.”

These four languages of redemption: 1. “I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.” 2. “I shall rescue you.” 3. “I shall redeem you.” and 4. “I shall take you to Me for a people,” are represented at the Passover Seder by the four cups of wine.

There is also a fifth language of redemption, found in Exodus 6:8, וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶת יָדִי, לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב , “and I shall bring you to the land about which I raised my hand to give it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” This fifth language of redemption, in which God promises to bring His people to the land of Israel, has not been entirely fulfilled–-hence the fifth cup of wine, that is designated as the Cup of Elijah. This cup is filled, but not drunk.

In the Talmud, Elijah the prophet is the ultimate resolver of all unresolved questions, including whether there should be four or five cups of wine at the Passover Seder. As a compromise, the fifth cup is designated as the Cup of Elijah, in acknowledgment of the not-yet fulfilled Divine promise to bring all of the People of Israel to the land of Israel.

Pharaoh held B’nei Yisrael in an iron grasp of horrific wickedness. He subjected them to death, torture and grueling labors. From all these harsh decrees, Hashem rescued us. He “removed us” from beneath the burden of cruel abuse. He “rescued us” from the difficult labors they imposed upon us. He “redeemed us” from the degradation of slavery. Yet paramount in significance, was the great kindness that He showed us, by “bringing us” to Him, and making us into His nation.

While we, who live in freedom, may not be physically enslaved, we are, nevertheless, often subject to great rigors and challenges in our lives. Some of us are greatly oppressed by other members of society, by parents, spouses, children, bosses, and teachers, figures of authority and individuals who have significant control over our lives or our environment. The emotional punishments that we may actually be subjected to may be as severe as the pain from brutal blows, broken bones and broken spirits.

Others are spared the emotional “torture,” but find the day-to-day responsibilities terribly burdensome, making it virtually impossible to find personal fulfillment, joy in life and reason to smile. The responsibilities we often face, are simply overwhelming and never let up.

Others, have it easier, born with a silver spoon in their mouths, they never seem to have to worry about money or finances, and never have to work too hard. But, even these blessed individuals, often do not feel free or independent, because even those with minimal responsibilities, find that achieving personal satisfaction is a most difficult challenge.