Parshat Shemot: Fundamentals of Hashem’s Chesed

12 01 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman 

The midrash says that at the time of the exodus, the Jewish people were at the 49th level of impurity. They didn’t deserve to be redeemed. Yet Hashem appeared to Moshe and said He would take them out of the land. Rabbe Yochanan maintains that the angel Michael was the angel who delivered G-d’s message because he represents chesed (kindness). Rabbe Chanina disagrees and says it was the angel Gavriel who signifies din (judgment).

The Shem Mishmuel explains that the Jewish people were in fact redeemed with both chesed and din. They didn’t deserve to be saved. Hashem acted beyond logic with beneficence, much like a father’s instinctual love for his son. Although the angels didn’t protest during theexodus, they did put up an argument at the Red Sea. At that time, chesed transformed into din. The angels objected, “Both the Jews and the Eyptians worship idols, why are you preferring the Jews?” The Jews needed to be worthy of the miracles, and indeed Hashem waited until they jumped into the sea before he split the waters. Once they deserved the miracles, the attribute of din was activated in their favor.

Even chesed has to have some reasonable basis. Otherwise it’s misplaced. The Jewish people were at the 49th level of impurity. Yet at their deepest core, they were still holy. Hashem understood that this inner spark would emerge after the redemption. In exile, they were spiritually and physically enslaved. All they could think about was surviving. Therefore, Hashem sent the angel Gavriel who symbolized strict justice to punish the Egyptians. When the Jews could finally breathe freely, their latent holiness rose to the surface.

Hashem created the world with a combination of din and chesed. At first there was din. Hashem put limits upon himself (tzimzum) to make space for the world to come into existence. Then he poured forth his chesed. Similarly, the exodus was a kind of creation ex-nihilo. A holy nation arose from a band of shattered slaves. Chesed, Hashem’s generosity, took us out of the 49th level and brought us to Sinai.

The Shem Mishumel notes that the exodus will be a model for the future redemption. It too will be a melding of chesed and din. Hashem waits for us to be worthy. When we repent, we will be redeemed immediately.

When Moshe asked Paro to release the Jews, he increased their suffering. Moshe complained to Hashem, “Why did you send me?” Hashem responded enigmatically, “Now you will see that Paro will send them out and I will redeem them.” Why did He send Moshe on a failed mission?

When Moshe first came, the Jews’ hopes were raised. They began to think that perhaps they would be redeemed. But when Paro rejected Moshe’s request, they reverted back to their old ways. There was a seeming accusation in heaven. Perhaps the Jews weren’t worthy to be redeemed. When Moshe said, “You are preventing the nation from serving Hashem,” Paro countered, “Who is Hashem that I should listen to him?” Then the mission changed from redeeming the Jews to defending the honor of Hashem’s name. This was the basis of Hashem’s chesed.

This will also be the foundation of the future redemption. It may very well be that the Jews won’t deserve to be redeemed, but Hashem will perform miracles for the sake of His name. At the end of Avinu Malkeinu, we say “Asei imanu tzedaka va’chesed.” Please perform for us justice and kindness.

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