There’s a very interesting medrash brought up in regard to this week’s parsha which deals with the relationship between HaShem and klal Yisrael during the period of yetzias Mitzrayim.
The medrash relates a parable of a king. One day, the king was walking along the road when he hears a woman screaming for help. He runs and sees that the woman is being attacked by robbers. As any good King would, he ran over quickly and saved the woman from the robbers. After a while, he decided he wanted to marry this woman. However, when he went to talk to the woman about it, she wouldn’t speak to him. So, what did the King decide to do? He paid the robbers to go harass the woman again, just so she’d feel as if she needed him. Sure enough, she called out to the king. In a matter of seconds, the king was there to save her from the robbers.
The nimshal to this parable is that the woman is kal Yisrael and the King is obviously HaShem. When we were in mitzrayim, we experienced such hardships which made us call out to HaShem. We were just like the woman who was attacked by robbers. And HaShem was there, listening. He ascended quickly and took us out of Mitzrayim. He saved us from the hands of our oppressors. Yet immediately afterwards, once we were saved, we stopped calling out to Him. So, what did HaShem do? He made Mitrzayim run after us, just so we’d call out to Him again.
There are many points one could learn from such a mashal. I wanted to speak about one small point which is a big yesod in yiddishgeit which really spoke to me.
These weeks are constantly referred to as the weeks of shov’vim, which is an acronym for the parshios of shemos, vayeira, bo, beshalach, yisro, and mishpatim. Meforshim point out that there’s a specific hashpa in these weeks which is given to us to help us work on our middos. Yet when we come to work on our middos, we need to know exactly where and what to work on.
For many people, myself included, avodas HaShem (more specifically tefillah) is strongest in our darkest hour. When we feel as if we’re genuinely in need of HaShem is when we infuse our tefillos with such strength that it shakes the foundations of shamayim. Yet, we see from here that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. A relationship with HaShem doesn’t just mean calling out to Him when the going gets tough. It means calling out to Him and working on the relationship even when the times are good. However, because at those moments we don’t feel a pressing need for HaShem’s help, it’s precisely in these times when avodas HaShem is hardest. And because avodas HaShem is at its hardest in these moments, is it specifically these times which require our fullest concentration and work.
I once heard a mashal from Rav Tzvi Meir Silberberg which spells out the idea. Let’s say you were walking along at night, and you saw a friend hunched over on the ground looking for something underneath a streetlight. You ask him what he’s looking for and he responds to you that he dropped his wife’s diamond ring. Being the good friend that you are, you bend over to help him look for it. After much looking you ask him exactly where he lost his diamond. He responds that he thinks he probably dropped it two blocks away. So why was he looking over here? Because here there was a streetlight as opposed to two blocks away where it was dark.
Obviously, this friend won’t find what he’s looking for. The same thing is with us in our avodas HaShem. If we only try to fix ourselves in the places where it’s easy to fix, we’ll never find what we’re looking for. We want to be true ovdei HaShem. The only way to do that is to go into the darkness, to the place where it’s hard to serve HaShem, and to work on ourselves there.
One of the yesodos of the mashal of the king and the woman is that HaShem wants a relationship in every situation. HaShem wants us to call out to him even when things are going good. Even when it’s harder to feel as if we need the relationship, that’s exactly where HaShem wants us to call out to Him. The underlying foundation is that HaShem wants us to serve Him, even when it’s hard. Calling out to Him when we don’t feel like we need to is comparable to the diamond hidden in the darkness. But the yesod extends to much more than tefillah. It’s a yesod which permeates throughout the rest of our avodas HaShem. In order to truly work on ourselves and become closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam, we need to be able to look for that diamond in the darkness. We need to work on ourselves in our avodas HaShem not just where it’s easy, but also where it’s difficult. But if we put in the time and really devote ourselves to this avodah, we’ll inevitably find the diamond of closeness to HaShem.