Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Bo 10:1-13:16
One of the most common questions people ask me is how I can live such a restrictive life. During the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, I don't drive or ride in a car, watch television or listen to the radio. I cook meals before it begins and do not adjust any lights or electrical appliances during this time. Parshas Bo explains why:
“So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him, “So said the Lord, G-d of the Hebrews . . . Send out My people and they will serve Me.” (Shemos/Exodus 10:3).
This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that eventually convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Nissan is made the first month of the year and the mitzvah of the Passover Offering, the Pesach, is given.
Then, G-d brings the Exodus.
The parsha ends with the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.
After more than two centuries of bondage, the Children of Israel go free from slavery so they can serve G-d. Many people would say, “What kind of freedom is that? To go from enslavement to Pharaoh to having to do whatever G-d commands!”
It’s one of the most common complaints against religion: too many Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots. Wouldn’t it be better to be truly free and do our own thing as long as we don’t hurt anyone else?
Rarely, if ever, would such critics apply this principle to other areas of life. The pianist, who immerses in study and deeply understands how to wring every last essence of music out of a piano is revered. The novice whose greatest accomplishment is plunking out chopsticks with two fingers, not so much.
The golfer who has watched every DVD about how to be a great player, practices virtually every day, and understands all the do’s and don’ts of stance and swing is admired. The Sunday duffer is dismissed.
I suspect you would agree the virtuoso pianist and the dedicated golfer have much greater freedom in pursuing their music and sport respectively. One of the great ironies of life is:
The same is true of your spiritual life. In order to be able to experience and express deep spirituality, you must study, practice, and submit to the do’s and don’ts of religion.
According to Malcolm Muggeridge, if you want to be a great sailor you must be a slave to the compass. He maintains there is no freedom on the high seas until you submit to this tyranny because of the likelihood you will get lost, perhaps founder, even be killed. Only by becoming a slave to the compass is a sailor really free.
The Torah is the compass for life. When you surrender to its dictates you prevent yourself from wandering aimlessly through the world. Through its discipline, you become ever more focused on reaching spiritually deep, fulfilling relationships with loved ones and G-d.
What do you use to guide your life, in particular, your spiritual life?