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Parshot/Festivals

Persecution, pestilence, flight – too many similarities

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So, here we are again … running away. Two years ago, we all ran into our houses; we shut down our lives; we isolated; and we huddled in fear as an invisible enemy, unseen to the naked eye, started chasing after us.

The upheaval was enormous, the cost of lives unfathomable, and the fear and anxiety was debilitating.

And just when we’re about to start believing that maybe things can go back to normal, we start running away again. This time the enemy is visible, and now we just watch our TV screens as four million people are displaced – families, loved ones, all become refugees in a matter of a month.

It would be so easy to say that this has nothing to do with us, but slowly, the tsunami of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is making waves everywhere. Inflation has blown its top, energy and food prices have gone crazy and again, we live anxiously, worrying about what tomorrow will bring.

Nothing in this world is haphazard or coincidental. The world for COVID-19 in Hebrew is ko-ro-na; the word for Ukraine in Hebrew is Uk-ray-n. Any student of the Hebrew language knows that to understand a word, one must investigate the three-lettered root of the word, known as the shoresh.

How crazy is it that corona and Ukraine both have the shoresh koof-raish-nun קֶרֶן (keren). What’s keren? It can mean horn, ray, or light.

Let’s be honest, the COVID-19 and Ukrainian crises haven’t been a walk in the park. A ray of light? Nah. And whose horn is blowing? The belligerent Vladimir Putin? The desperate Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

Let’s travel back in time to the year 2448. The Jews have been enslaved for 210 years. Their suffering has reached a crescendo, and they can no longer take the pain and anguish of slavery. Moses gets dispatched to redeem the slaves from the hands of Pharoah. We all know the story … things got worse, not better! Pharoah’s heart was hardened, and the civilised Egyptian culture was thrown into turmoil. Plague after plague, calamity after calamity hit the country.

Eventually, the Jews were told to isolate in their houses, “for the Angel of Death will visit upon the country”. The final blow of the hammer came down. As the first-born Egyptian corpses lay strewn everywhere, Pharoah himself came running in the middle of the night (in his pyjamas!) and said, “Leave!” And the Children of Israel ran in such haste, they didn’t even have time to bake their bread.

To me, there’s something happening here. It’s kind of déjà vu. Then again, it’s not just a feeling. We’re taught in Micha 7:15 that “כִּימֵי צֵאתְךָ, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם, אַרְאֶנּו נִפְלָאו” (Just like in the days of going out of Egypt, I will show you wonders.)

We’re promised that the prototype of Egyptian exile and consequent redemption will once again happen in our time as we herald in an era of Mashiach, which promises redemption from all that’s negative in the world. It will be a time when we’ll live in peace and harmony.

So, what does the theme of keren teach us? Whose horn is blowing? Could we perhaps say that the shofar of Mashiach is blowing, that which seems to be negative is simply a cleansing and a lesson for all of us to wake up to a new reality?

Could we perhaps see a ray of light, that silver lining on the dark cloud called war – maybe the world is transforming, shaking, because in order to herald a new reality, the existing structures have to come down. It happened in Egypt; it can and will happen again.

If you aren’t convinced, consider the statement in the Talmud: Sotah (49B): “With the approach of Mashiach, chutzpah will increase and prices will rise sharply. The vine will yield produce, but wine will be expensive. The government will turn to heresy, and no one will be qualified to give rebuke. The wisdom of scholars will deteriorate, people who fear sin will be despised, and truth will not be found. Young people will shame their elders, old men having to stand up for the young.”

Gosh, sounds like a surprisingly good description of 2022. Governments are corrupt; inflation has gone crazy; wholesome, strong leadership is nowhere to be found; believers in morality and integrity are indeed, despised and mocked; children are chutzpadik; and will “The Truth” please stand up? You’re nowhere to be found!

So, here’s a sobering, but powerful idea. It’s the end of the quote from the statement of the Talmud (Sotah 49B) quoted above: “There is no one upon whom we can rely except for our Father in heaven.”

There you have it. Simple! That’s our ray of light, our horn. Spread the message.

The birthing of Mashiach is coming with contractions that are painful. But there’s a reward at the end of it all – the birth of a beautiful world filled with the light of G-d, and garnished with health, wealth, happiness, and peace. Just trust our Father in heaven (and don’t rely on your government, your money, your education … or anything else, for that matter).

Our Father in heaven is waiting for us, trust in Him alone, and then, this Pesach, we’ll hopefully individually and collectively move from exile to redemption.

Chag Sameach, a kosher and happy Pesach to everyone!

  • Rebbetzin Aidel Kazilsky is a radio and television host and an inspirational speaker who teaches the wisdom of Torah, and applies it to contemporary times.

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