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Va’eira: The Unconquerable Pintelle Yid

כי אם מאן אתה לשלח ועודך מחזיק בם.

“For if you refuse to send them out, and you still hold on to them.” (Shemos 9:2)

Moshe is warning Pharaoh that if he will not send the Jewish people out of Egypt, Hashem will send a pestilence that will destroy all Egyptian livestock. The wording in this verse seems redundant; if Pharaoh refuses to send out the Jewish people, then he is obviously still holding on to them. Why must it be stated separately? We also find a similar statement later on (ibid. 17) where Moshe says “you are still conquering My nation.” What is the repeated objection to Pharaoh still holding on to or conquering the Jews?

The yartzeit of the tzaddik Rebbe Moshe Leib of Sassov zt”l will be in a few days, on 4 Shevat. Rebbe Moshe Leib taught us a beautiful insight on the verse in Tehillim (37:10): “And still, just a little [while] and there is no rasha; and you will look at his place and he won’t be there.” By taking the verse apart word for word, a new insight emerges: Even the greatest rasha (evil person) has a source of goodness within himself. “And still, just a little” – there is always still a little part where “there is no rasha” – there is no evil within the person. If “you will look at his place” and search within yourself to see how you are doing in this specific area, you may well realize that he is even better than you in this aspect. And if you will try to learn from him, you may well bring about that “he won’t be there” – the rasha will be gone, because you will have helped him grow and become better. Even the lowest Jew has an area in which the yetzer hara could not corrupt him. We can learn from everyone, at least some things.

The tzaddik Rebbe Nachman of Breslav gave a similar interpretation of this verse, with a slightly different twist. He would say that each person should search his own heart and he will find that there is “still, a little” place where he is “no rasha.” Even if the yetzer hara already has a grip on him, there will always be a part of him that remains pure. By realizing this, the person can utilize this point of purity and grow from there, until all of the evil within him will “be gone.”

This is what Moshe said to Pharaoh: You refuse to send out the Jewish people, but aside from the physical enslavement, odcha -  you are “still” holding on to them. You are holding on to the od – the part of them that’s still pure. You are holding on to the pintelle Yid (Jewish core) and want to tear them completely away from Hashem. For this, you will be getting the ten plagues! Hashem will never let you tear His precious children away from Him!


On the 2nd of Shevat is the yartzeit of the Rebbe R’ Zusha. We know that the two holy brothers, Reb Zusha and Reb Elimelech, wandered together incognito in personal exile. They would often call each other by name; Reb Elimelech would say, “Zusha, Zusha!” and his brother would call, “Melech, Melech!” These saintly tzaddikim had in mind deep spiritual secrets, because Zusha has the numerical value of the Divine Name Sha-dei, and Melech symbolizes the attribute of malchus – royalty.

In this week’s sidra, Hashem says that He revealed Himself to Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yakov as the Al-mighty Sha-dei. This Name of Hashem hints at Hashem’s great power when He “told His world dei – enough.” When Hashem created the world, He told the sea: “Dei – enough! Stop right here!” That is how the shore was formed.

Likewise, Hashem tells Satan: “Dei – enough!” Satan wants to ensnare all Jews and distance us from Hashem, but it comes to a point when Hashem tells him to stop. When it comes to the pintelle Yid (Jewish core) within every Jewish person, the Satan has no power. This is something that our holy forefathers achieved on our behalf.

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