Hope is born when we can envision change, when we can daven for it
“And the Mitzrim enslaved Bnei Yisrael with backbreaking work.”
(Shemos 1:13, Hagaddah shel Pesach)
The Gemara says that the word “b’farech — backbreaking work,” contains the words “peh rach — soft mouth.” The Mitzrim drew Bnei Yisrael into slavery slowly, by speaking softly — until they’d ensnared them completely. But why? Why not just make an edict to enslave them all at once?
Pharaoh wasn’t worried about Bnei Yisrael revolting. Yet by enslaving them gradually, he created a mindset in which they forgot that things had ever been different.
When a person is enmeshed in a difficult situation slowly, he loses sight of the way things used to be — and he doesn’t daven for things to change. This negative situation has become his norm. That’s why no one ever escaped from Mitzrayim: Bnei Yisrael no longer remembered they used to be free, so they felt no need to escape.
That was Pharoah’s goal. He wanted to sever the Jews’ hope, so that they wouldn’t daven for redemption. Tefillah only works if one believes what he’s davening for is possible. (Rav Aaron Lopiansky, based on Sefer Bais Yaakov)
What is it about Erev Yom Tov that compels us to touch base with all the friends and relatives we haven’t spoken to in six months? Wouldn’t some quiet midwinter day be a more appropriate time for such phone calls? But no, we wake up Erev Pesach and realize we haven’t spoken to Grandma Fay or Roommate Raizy, and what better time to do so than when scrambling to finish laundry before chatzos or separating 18 eggs?
So when the phone rang last year Erev Pesach afternoon, I was watching my kneidlach disintegrate and praying that my sponge cake wouldn’t do the same. But hearing the voice on the other end thrust every other thought out of my mind.
“Mindy! How are you?”
The word tzarah, misfortune, comes from the root tzar, narrow. The word yeshuah, salvation, comes from the word yashar, straight.
A tzarah is a difficulty that squeezes a person into such a narrow space that he loses himself, loses hope. When he experiences a yeshuah, he’s straightened out, he regains his own essence.
The word tikvah, hope, comes from the root kav, a line. When someone can envision a line from where he is now to where he wants to be, then he has hope. Hope is born when he can envision change, when he can daven for it.
Mindy and I met when we were newlyweds and taught in the same seminary. Living a few blocks apart, we fell into a comfortable pattern of compatibility as our families grew. Yet as the years progressed, Mindy’s life became more complicated. Her oldest son, Michael, wasn’t integrating well into the system. He bounced around several schools, and by the time he reached yeshivah age, he’d decided yeshivah wasn’t for him. With his bar mitzvah hat barely out of the box, he ditched his kippah entirely and began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Mindy’s life was plunged into an abyss, a bottomless pit of pain.
As matters kept on getting worse, on the advice of many gedolim, Mindy and her family moved back to the States, where Michael might be able to get the specialized help he needed.
Over the years, our communication became less frequent, but our connection remained strong, together with my tefillos for Michael en Mindel.
When Hashem commanded Moshe to go redeem Bnei Yisrael, Moshe asked, “With what name shall I call you?” Hashem answered, “Ekyeh asher ekyeh — I will be what I will be.” This name of Hashem was never used before. What is it signifying within this context of redemption?
This name shows us that Hashem is always there — in galus, in geulah. When we call to Hashem with this name, we’re focusing on the line that connects our present situation, where we are, to where we hope to be. We recognize our hope for the future and daven for it.
Mindy’s voice was barely a whisper and I braced myself for bad news, staring sightlessly at the festivity that surrounded me.
She paused, and although her voice was heavy with tears, there was something there, a whisper of hope that I hadn’t heard in years.
“It’s been so many years, but I always kept davening, always knew this would happen. Michael came home today for the Seder.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 736)
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