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Parshas VaEira - Staying Inspired

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 01/12/18

After the plagues of frogs, beasts, and hail, respectively, Pharoah begged Moshe to daven for his salvation in exchange for the emancipation of the Jewish nation. Moshe complied each time, but immediately afterwards, Pharoah hardened his own heart and continued to refuse to allow the Jewish nation to leave. This happened multiple times.


What was Pharoah thinking? Were his intentions to dare to toy with Moshe Rabbeinu and Hashem Himself? Was Pharoah, a hardened and experienced king, childishly feigning remorse? Furthermore, if indeed Pharoah was insincere and he never really intended to let the Jews leave, why did Moshe heed Pharoah's pleas? Why did he take Pharoah's promise to let the Jews leave seriously?


A man was driving to an important meeting in Manhattan, one that would decide his financial future. To his horror he hit terrible traffic. By the time he pulled up to the building where his meeting would be taking place, there were barely a few minutes left before it would begin and there was no parking spot in sight. The man, feeling a surge of desperation, turned his eyes heavenward and said "Hashem, I know that I haven't been taking my responsibilities to You seriously enough. Hashem, if you help me find a parking spot I promise that I will change my entire life around. I will serve you with all my heart and soul. Please oh please hear my cry!”.  Miraculously, at that exact moment, a car pulled out of the perfect parking spot...right in front of the building! Without skipping a beat, he quickly turned heavenwards and said "Never mind Hashem; I just found a spot”.


R' Avrohom Pam explains that each and every time Pharoah admitted to his sin of enslaving the Jews and promised to let them free, he indeed did so SINCERELY! In his moment of pain he genuinely felt a humble recognition of Hashem's power. As a result of this sincere repentance, Moshe agreed to daven on his behalf. However, the instant that the affliction had ended, Pharoah lost his brief moment of clarity and understanding that Hashem runs the world, and he reneged on his promise.


R' Pam also states that although the actions of Pharoah (and the above parable) are a bit extreme, we can all relate to this experience in some degree. Often, when we are going through a tough life situation, it suddenly becomes so clear to us how small and powerless we are and how dependent we are on Hashem. Our suffering inspires us to daven like never before and to perform incredible acts of serving Hashem. However, immediately after we are saved, it becomes very difficult to retain that inspiration.


Living Inspired


How many times have you gone to an inspiring speech or experienced an inspiring event, felt like you would turn your life around, and found that feeling completely dissipate after a few days or even hours? Everyone experiences this. Inspiration is like a bolt of lightning in a dark forest: it affords a moment of brilliant illumination and clarity but then it disappears. This begs the question - how does one keep their inspiration alive? The Sages recommend to immediately adopt an easy practice that you can do CONSISTENTLY, no matter how “small". If you do so each time that you’re inspired, you are guaranteed to achieve genuine greatness. Now, in case that you feel that “small” positive actions are insignificant and not worth your attention, consider the following case in point: Did you know that the midwives Shifra and Puah, who were discussed in last week's parshah, were really Yocheved and Miriam? Why did the Torah call two of the holiest women in history by the way that they coddled babies*? R' Yerucham Levuvitz explains that Hashem did so to teach us that contrary to popular belief, it's not the big things that make great people. Rather, the Torah is teaching us that it's the SMALL and CONSTANT gestures that do so. Relatively "small" kabalos (undertakings) like deciding to say Tehillim for one minute a day, daily study of a few sentences of Shmiras Halashon, Mussar etc. are the keys to achieving and retaining greatness, when done on a consistent basis.


We all have moments in our lives – an uplifting Torah class, Yom Kippur, or a miraculous “sign” from Heaven – when we see, hear, or experience something which gives us a tremendous flash of inspiration and excitement to change. Yet, so often, the passage of time wears away at that enthusiasm and we are left with nothing. The Torah is teaching us that the best way to seize such moments is to immediately make concrete, practical, and consistent resolutions to apply the inspiration, so that we may keep it with us forever.


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*- Yocheved was called "Shifra" because she beautified the babies and Miriam was called "Puah" because she would coo soothingly to calm the babies (Rashi 1:15).