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Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eira – Exodus 6:2-9:35
We are all slaves to our habits. Of course, if they’re good we don’t notice our bondage. But conquering a bad habit makes us feel every shackle. Parshas Va’eira gives a four-step process for breaking the chains of a bad habit:
“…I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will rescue you from serving them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great judgments. And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be a G-d to you…” (Shemos/Exodus 6:6-7)
This Sabbath’s parsha begins with G-d reassuring Moses that the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be fulfilled. Nonetheless, twice Moses tries to get G-d to release him from leading the Israelites. The rest of the parsha describes the first seven plagues that G-d brought on Egypt as He brings about the Exodus.
Freeing the Children of Israel
The Almighty used a four-step process to free the Israelites:
- I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt.
- I will rescue you from serving them.
- I will redeem you.
- I will take you to Me for a people.
Doesn’t it seem a little strange G-d uses such an elaborate method? Wouldn’t it be simpler if He said, “I’m going to take you out of Egypt and give you the Ten Commandments!” But the Almighty knew that a nation of lowly slaves, who made bricks from mud and straw, could not suddenly rise to the level of being a free people ready to receive the word of G-d at Mount Sinai.
So He redeemed them in phases:
- G-d freed the Israelites from harsh labor, however, they were still under Egyptian rule.
- G-d released them from all obligations to the Egyptians.
- G-d gave them the status of complete freedom.
- G-d brought them to their ultimate purpose as His people.
By bringing about the redemption in stages the Almighty saw to it that the Israelites were prepared for their new life ahead.
Freeing Yourself from a Bad Habit
The process of freeing yourself from a bad habit mirrors how G-d rescued the Children of Israel:
- Take yourself out from under the burden of the habit – Make a firm decision to break the habit.
- Rescue yourself from serving it – Undo the behavior. Charles Duhigg details the best way in his book The Power of Habit.
- Redeem yourself – Re-create your self-image as someone no longer burdened by the bad habit.
- Take yourself to the Almighty – Recognize your newfound freedom allows you to serve G-d more freely and deeply, which is your ultimate purpose.
By conquering your bad habit in stages you create the best chance of freeing yourself for good.
The Israelites experienced victories and setbacks in the wilderness but focused on their goal and eventually arrived at the Promised Land. You may certainly have reversals along the way to breaking free from a bad habit. But sticking with the process and focusing on your goal will get you to the promised land: greater freedom to live your life, not as a slave to bad habits, but as you intend.
What bad habit will you break this year? Please leave a comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!