“And it was on that day Hashem brought out all the hosts of the Children of Israel from the Land of Egypt.” (Shemos 12:51). In the parsha we read that following our long exile in Mitzrayim, Hashem finally brought us out. We have a mitzva to remember this unique miracle every day. However the Hagodo goes further and tells us that a person is obliged to see himself as if he himself just left Mitzrayim, no matter where he is living. This extra obligation is widely regarded as being extremely difficult to fulfil. (Women sometimes find it easier than men!) The intensity of the slavery, the continuous back-breaking work, the cruelty of Pharaoh’s decrees are so foreign to those of us who, fortunately, have always lived in peaceful societies, that we cannot appreciate that feeling of joy which the Jews must have felt when they were freed from the slavery of Mitzrayim. Is this mitzva then not relevant to us or is there some way we can have a connection to it?
The Mesilas Yeshorim (Chapter One) discusses our purpose in this world, which is to earn our portion in the next world. Were we to enter the World to Come without living through the challenges of this world, we would not feel so happy. It would be like living off charity. We will feel much happier if we earn our reward by having our loyalty to Hashem tested and successfully standing up to those tests. These tests, says the Mesilas Yeshorim, come constantly. We are often faced with difficult situations such as illness, poverty or exile during which our faith in Hashem may be challenged. At other times we may be tested by excellent health and wealth. Then the challenge is to believe that our success is solely due to Hashem and not to our business acumen or the skill of our doctor.
It is clear from the Mesilas Yesharim that every day brings different challenges. However each challenge is also to an opportunity to be used for our eternal good and shouldn’t be wasted. How can we utilise a moment when we have just escaped from a major or minor difficulty? Obviously we must thank Hashem profusely. But perhaps we can also use this moment to claim part of the mitzva we mentioned, feeling as if we have just come out of Mitzrayim. True, our suffering was not as great that of a slave in Mitzrayim but we can share some of his exhilaration on being freed. We can use even recovery from a relatively minor illness or crisis to feel part of this mitzvah.
But what about during the difficulty itself? How can we best utilise that time? The Mesilas Yesharim mentioned maintaining our faith in Hashem, so beautifully exemplified by Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin very recently. How else can we best use time of suffering, even for less serious challenges than R’ Sholom had to face?
The Chovos Halevovos gives several explanations of the mitzvah of loving Hashem bechol levovcho, uvechol nafshecho, uvechol meodecho. One is that we are obliged to love Hashem even if we have no money, no possessions and almost no life. Even if a person is suffering the tribulations of Iyov, he still has to love Hashem. But how likely is it that we will have a chance to fulfil this mitzvah? And even if we did, are on a high enough madreiga to fulfil it? It seems to be hardly relevant for us. But if we continue the theme we began earlier, it can indeed be relevant. Yes, the extreme situation as faced by Iyov is, hopefully, unlikely but we are often lacking something. We are often in some pain, physical or emotional. At any moment of challenge, before the healing or salvation has come, we can think to ourselves and even say out loud, “Despite this pain, despite not having what I would dearly like, I still love You, Hashem. You have given me life. You have given us Torah and Mitzvos. You have given us the World to Come. I still have more than enough reasons to love You.” This way we can also have a connection to one of the loftiest mitzvos, loving Hashem with all our heart, albeit on our very limited madreiga.
But now let’s move on to our most joyful moments which have pearls of opportunity hidden in them if we take advantage. Obviously these simchadik moments should be used to feel full of thanks to Hashem for His kindnesses. Yaakov said the Shema at the very moment he was being embraced by Yosef to use that moment of great simcha to express his love of Hashem. There is, however, another way we can respond to moments of simcha to earn eternal reward, if we think about it.
In the Shemone Esrei we say “ki lishuosecho kivinu kol hayom – We have hoped for your salvation the whole day.” Who amongst us actually hopes for the geula the whole day? To justify our saying this, perhaps we could suggest that our lives are divided into three aspects; when things are going badly, when things are going well and other times. When things are going badly, it is easy to yearn for the geula. When things are going well, and even very well as at a chupa, we break a glass to remind us that however great our simcha, it cannot be complete until Yerushalayim is rebuilt, with the Beis Hamikdash. So even during these happy times we still are yearning for geula. And if we are well, we have a parnoso and there are no crises, that is also a good situation to be in and we can also think that however good things are, they would be even better were we to merit the geula. So during all the different times of our life, we yearn for the geula and we can say lishuosecho kivinu kol hayom with sincerity.
Now we have a way to utilise our moments of simcha and even our everyday moments when we are not suffering, for our eternal benefit; by thinking that however good things are, how much better it would be, were we to merit the geula. Thus we can have the merit of the mitzva of “yearning for salvation” and be able to answer the question we will all be asked in the next world, “Did you yearn for the salvation?” And we can do this in any situation in which we find ourselves.
Life is full of opportunities; moments when we can create a connection to certain mitzvos which ordinarily are beyond us. It is up to us to grasp every opportunity and every moment to create a reservoir of merits for our future.