Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
The Pain & Pleasure Principle
When Communism swallowed up Russian industry, private enterprise became illegal. Many people, struggling to make a living, would smuggle contraband through the cracks of the Iron Curtain to then sell illegally on the black market. One group came up with a creative method for transporting the contraband across the borders. Feigning a funeral procession they would carry a coffin full of goods right past the Russian guards who never suspected there was anything other than a dead body in the coffin. Unfortunately they grew too accustomed to the success of their scheme and at one funeral procession the border guard noticed that none of the "relatives" of the deceased were crying; in fact they were quite cheerful. Suspicious, he insisted that they open up the coffin.
The Far Horizon
To gain insight into the unique leadership lesson of this week’s Parshah, I often ask an audience to perform a thought experiment. Imagine you are the leader of a people that has suffered exile for more than two centuries, and has been enslaved and oppressed. Now, after a series of miracles, it is about to go free. You assemble them and rise to address them. They are waiting expectantly for your words. This is a defining moment they will never forget. What will you speak about?
Most people answer: freedom. That was Abraham Lincoln’s decision in the Gettysburg Address, when he invoked the memory of “a new nation, conceived in liberty,” and looked forward to “a new birth of freedom.” Some suggest that they would inspire the people by talking about the destination that lay ahead, the “land flowing with milk and honey.” Yet others say they would warn the people of the dangers and challenges that they would encounter on what Nelson Mandela called “the long walk to freedom.”
The Lowly Tasks
Our sages tell us that the rod Moses used to bring the plagues upon the Egyptians was carved with the names of the six mothers of our people (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah), the twelve tribes, the ten plagues, and the great name of G‑d.
Certainly, the noble and lofty ideas and ideals represented by the matriarchs and the tribes of Israel are “worthy companions” for G‑d’s name on Moses’ rod. But the lowly tasks of bringing frogs, lice and boils upon the Egyptians seem an incongruous “match” with the Almighty’s ineffable name—