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Shemos: Children, Life and Livelihood without Lack

כה אמר פרעה אינני נותן לכם תבן. אתם לכו קחו לכם תבן מאשר תמצאו כי אין נגרע מעבודתכם דבר.

“Thus said Pharaoh: ‘I am not giving you any more straw. You shall go and take for yourself straw from wherever you find, and nothing should be lacking from your work.’” (Shemos 5:10-11)

The holy Rebbe from Kamarna brings down in his Sefer Heichel Habrachah in the name of his uncle, the Ateres Tzvi of Ziditchov: “The Gemara says (Moed Katan 24a) that having children, being granted life and earning a livelihood ‘do not depend on the person’s merit, only on his mazal (fate).’ This means that these things are predestined for the person. The Ateres Tzvi interpreted the Gemara as follows: ‘If a person has children, life and a livelihood, it does not detract from the merit he earns for his mitzvos, for he did not receive it as payment for his good deeds; rather, it is purely due to his fate.’”

He also interprets this verse to bring out the same message. The word teven (straw) contains the letters that spell the words ben and bas – son and daughter. The word me’asher (from wherever) hints at parnassa – earning a livelihood, as we see in Bereishes 49:20 where this word is used in connection to bread. The word timtzai – find, hints at life, as it says “you will find life.” Now we can read the verse as follows: take for yourself children, a livelihood and life, and nothing will be lacking from your work – nothing will be detracted from the rewards for your good deeds.”

The Rebbe from Kamarna continues: “The word teven has the same root as the word tevunah, which means wisdom. Pharaoh said to the Jewish people that he will no longer give them any wisdom, which was a wonderful benefit. Until then, Pharaoh was trying to reeducate the Jews so that they should adopt the Egyptian culture and gods, but now the Jews were finally free to “go and take for themselves wisdom” from the source of truth.

Further in the parsha the Torah says (Shemos 3:21): “And I will give the [Jewish people] grace in the eyes of the Egyptians.” Hashem will make the Egyptians look favorably at the Jews and stop forcing their “wisdom” upon them.

The verse continues: “And it will be when you will go [from Egypt] you will not go empty-handed.” Why does the verse say the word “go” twice? It could have said: “You will not leave Egypt empty-handed.”

A person is never stationary; he is always either going up or falling down. Either he grows in avodas Hashem (Divine service), or he falls from his spiritual level. When a person grows spiritually, he fills up his heart and mind with values. When a person falls spiritually, he becomes emptier and emptier.

This is the meaning of the verse: “And it will be” – the verse begins with the word vehaya which shows on joy. It will be joyous, “when you will go” – a person is forever moving and going, so it is inevitable that you will be going somewhere. The joy will be that when you will go, “you will not go empty-handed.” You will not lose your values, but you will grow and become fuller in Torah, avodaand fear of Heaven. Sometimes the yetzer hara (evil inclination) tries to tell a person that he learned enough already and prayed enough; now it’s time to enjoy life. The truth is that only Torah and mitzvos make a person feel fulfilled and bring joy into a person’s life. The more a person learns torah and serves Hashem, the more he is excited to learn and grow even more, adding meaning and fulfillment to his life.


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