Rabbi Hauer’s Erev Shabbos Message 2-16-24

Dear Friends,

I hope you and yours are well and managing these difficult days.

Visitors to Israel over the past four months invariably come back marveling at both the pain and the strength that they witnessed. Israel and its people are experiencing enormous pain and stress while demonstrating outstanding strength and spirit.

That spirit is focused – as it must be – on getting thru each day. The army and its soldiers must continue down the grueling path to victory while their families manage the anxious wait for their safe return. The hostage families pursue every possible avenue of advocacy despite the utter emotional and physical exhaustion created by their ongoing excruciating uncertainty. The displaced families struggle to find new and creative ways to keep themselves and their children sane and productive in their transient homelessness. The work and the stress are unceasing for everyone from business owners to governmental leaders to emergency responders. And then there is the grief that has stricken so many immediately and personally.

How can anyone think about the day after when they need to work so hard to get thru today?

When the Jewish people were suffering bondage in Egypt, they could not really hear Moshe’s message. V’lo shamu el Moshe mikotzer ruach u’meiavodah kasha. As the Torah describes it, their hard work generated a shortened or shrunken spirit. While we instinctively may read this as a critique, a visit to Israel today will set us straight. Moshe was there with a vision for the day after, for Sinai and Eretz Yisrael, but the Jewish people could not yet go there. Klal Yisrael needed kotzer ruach, complete focus of their spirit and energy on the short term, on getting through the day. Vision would need to come later.

And it does. Beginning in Parshat Terumah, with slavery behind us, we begin to engage in restoring a home for God in our midst. That is not the grinding work of survival but the aspirational pursuit of Hashem’s vision for creation and our mission within it. At this stage, we are introduced to terms like nediv levnadva ruchon’sa-o rucho, motivated and uplifting hearts and spirits. With the survival mode of bondage behind us, we shift to expand our spirit and vision beyond the next day. That is the full story of this book, the transformative journey from kotzer ruach to n’sa-o rucho, from a group of survivors to a nation of dreamers.

We know, however, that the Exodus gave us a measure of permanent liberation, cheirut olam, from which we continue to benefit. Even during periods of grinding hardship, we have learned to punctuate our days with reminders of our past redemption and hopes for the future. During these times we cannot plan for the day after as we need the kotzer ruach focus of getting through unspeakably difficult days, but – as we see in new and inspiring ways on every one of these challenging days – the heroic Israelis on the literal and figurative front lines are driven, fueled, sustained, and uplifted by an awe-inspiring idealism and determination drawing from the message of Moshe that we did eventually absorb and that we have since refused to forget, defining our mission and our destiny. We may not be ready to plan for the day after, but we will never stop dreaming of it.

Have a wonderful Shabbos and may we merit to hear soon besorot tovot, good news.