In whose merit - then and now?
But Parshat Sh'mot contains the beginnings of redemption. We read of the birth of Moshe. We read of G-d's first prophecy to Moshe, a prophecy of redemption. In that prophecy, we find not only Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim, but an allusion to the Sinai Experience, and to the future of the people in Eretz Yisrael.
The people were destined to be taken from Egyptian slavery and oppression because of G-d's promises to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. We had Z'CHUT AVOT, and therefore we would be redeemed. But there was also merit that the people themselves earned. Our sources tell us about the people not changing their language, style of clothing, or their names.
Our sources tell us of the merit of righteous women, because of whom we were redeemed.
Let us say that it is a combination of inherited merit and earned merit that gets us out of difficult situations. Would either by itself also save us? It seems so. But certainly, the combination of the two is quite powerful.
And what about the descendants of that large family soon to become a nation? Their descendants 3300 years later? What about us?
We are still in Exile. A very long exile since the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash. Some of the people have tenaciously clung to the Torah throughout the Exile. Others have returned to the Torah. Many have not. Some of the people of Israel have returned to Eretz Yisrael. Many have not. All of the people of Israel are still without the Beit HaMikdash. All of us eagerly await the Geula (some are conscious of this eager anticipation; others are not yet aware of it). Many Jews are "earning" merit for the Geula on an individual basis and on behalf of Klal Yisrael. And to be sure, we still have - always have - Z'CHUT AVOT. The question is, when will our inherited merit and earned merit be strong enough to bring the Geula? Actually, that's not the big question. With BITACHON (faith, confidence) in G-d, it will be when it will be. The big question is whether we are motivated and committed to a life of Torah and Mitzvot, to a life of spiritual self- improvement and of working with our fellow Jews in the pleasant ways of the Torah to uplift all of Klal Yisrael? Are we committed to Eretz Yisrael and to its spiritual and physical growth? The big question is are we doing all we can to hasten the Geula?
The answer to all those big questions is... we had better be!