“Recognizing Loving-Kindness ”

Moshe Kempinski

Life Lessons from the Torah Portion
Va’eira Exodus 6:2-9:35

In the Torah portion of Shmot , we read at the end the pained cry of a frustrated Moshe.

” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Why have You harmed this people? Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people.” ( Exodus 5:22-23)

Then Hashem answers Moshe;

“..”Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand he will send them out, and with a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.”” (ibid 6:1)

In reality this whole interchange is rather unusual. Is it conceivable that Moshe is accusing G-d. If that is so is it conceivable that Hashem answers in a way that essentially conveys the message “dont worry Moshe I am still going to be coming through”. Why would Hashem even bother answering Moshe’s seemingly insubordinate and angry question?

In essence, though, Moshe is not acting out of frustration with Hashem but rather out of disappointment with himself. He is crying out to Hashem because he feels that it was his inadequacy that caused the increased bondage

“”O Lord! Why have You harmed this people, Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people.” ( Exodus 5:22-23)

It is then that Hashem responds with a promise of great strength;

“..for with a mighty hand ( Yad Chazakah)he will send them out, and with a mighty hand ( Yad Chazakah ) he will drive them out of his land.”” (ibid 6:1)

Hashem then repeats His promise of this great strength ;

Therefore, say to the children of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm ( Zroah Netuya)and with great judgments ( Shfatim Gedolim). ( ibid:6)

What do the words “with an outstretched arm and with great judgments” actually mean? Is Hashem repeating a concept with differing terminology to emphasize his promise? Are the words “outstretched arm” and “great judgements” conveying the same message?

We see similar terminology when we read of the Israeli farmer being commanded to recite a very specific text, that we repeat in the Passover Seder, when bringing his first fruits to the temple

“‘Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; 8and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand ( Yad Chazakah) and an outstretched arm ( Zroah Netuya) and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.…(Deuteronomy 26:7-9)

We can clearly understand what “a mighty hand ( Yad Chazakah)” means. Are the words “an outstretched arm ( Zeroah Netuya) “ meant to convey the same concept?

Most Jewish commentators explain that an “Outstretched Arm” represents an ongoing presence of strength. Rashi connects it to the Death of Egypt’s firstborn . The Ramban describes it as an “outstretched arm”: hovering over Egypt waiting to strike at those who would hinder the Exodus.

Yet perhaps the concept “outstretched arm” connotes something else as well.

We read in psalms ;

With a strong hand ( Yad Chazakah) and an outstretched arm ( Zeroah Netuya) , For His lovingkindness is everlasting.( psalm 136:12)

At our Pesach Seder we put a piece of Roasted lamb shank called a ZEROAH. Our mystical tradition connects that symbol on the Seder plate with the Divine attribute of Hessed or Lovingkindness.

The greatness of the Exodus from Egypt was not simply that he punished and brought great judgement on the oppressors. He also stretched out His arm as a protective shield of loving Kindness. The Israelites did not only experience the power of Hashem but they grew strong through the lovingkindness he showered unto them.

There are many on this journey called life that feel as if they have lost their moorings and are drifting. There are many others that are locked into lives that move along concrete paths and directions and therefore they feel constrained. In all cases they may even see the grandeur of Creation and stand in awe of its infinite nature and still not feel connected. Many find themselves focused on the mighty Hand of G-d they have felt in their life. Others send a lifetime bemoaning the seeming lack of the Mighty Hand.

The secret to reconnection lies not in the grandeur of the Infinite and not in the strong hand and power of the Creator. The secret is discovered by searching for the thin thread of Divine loving kindness in our lives. At times that thread seems so fragile and most of the time we take it for granted. That thread is found in the birth of a child, the unfolding of a flower and in the countless blessings in our life that we regrettably take for granted.

Yet if we spend the time untangling and revealing the Chut Shel Hesed (thin thread of lovingkindness) that is woven into our lives, everything else falls into place. With that understanding of “Zeroah Netuyah ” ,we ourselves can truly become liberated from the constraints ( Meitzarim) that bind us .

Praise the LORD, my soul, and never forget all the good he has done: (Psalm 103:2)

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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