Rabbi Label Lam
And Neither Would We!
The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us.
And we cried out to Hashem, The G-d of our fathers, and Hashem heard our
voice and saw our affliction, our travail and our oppression. (Devarim
In the brief review of the account of our entry into and exit from exile
in Egypt we must assume that each word that survives the editorial knife
and lives to tell the story is precious. If even one word would be
removed, then the irreducible complexity of the text would be at risk of
hemorrhaging its deeper meaning. With that as a premise, every word must
have a justified existence, and hence an important part of the story to
A young man came running into the synagogue crying and picked up a Sefer
Tehillim (A Book of Psalms) and started reciting passionately for a while.
A man standing near by asked the fellow what had been the emergency that
delivered him to the sudden moment of prayer. The young man answered that he
had been in great pain about some personal issue and it had brought him to
tears. He found himself crying. In the midst of the episode he realized
How often do we pray without being personally engaged, without feelings!?
Even if we try with all our heart, too often it doesn't happen. "Now," he
said, "that the wellsprings of deep personal emotions were producing genuine
tears, I decided to hurry myself to a prayer book so that the opportunity
should not go to waste."
Our Sages tell us that the gates of tears are never locked. In another
place, though, we are told that tears are compared to a number of things,
for example "to smoke" and "to seeds". What's the difference? Tears that
are compared to smoke dissipate and are lost shortly after the emotions have
subsided. Tears that are like seeds, contrastingly, fall to the ground and
produce everlasting results. How, though, do we turn smoke into seeds?
Easy? Not so easy!
A close friend told me that while he was standing in shul with the rest of
the congregation in what was to be the quiet and meditative portion of the
prayer service, his little son entered, and started to pull desperately at
his tallis-prayer shawl. He shouted persistently again and again, "Abba!
Abba!" Some of the understandably distracted folks started to utter
desperately the provocative two-letter, all useful, non-speech, rhetorical
question, "Nu! Nu!"
My friend told me that at that moment when he was frozen in his place
supposedly deep in prayer he managed without words to pantomime to the
assembled and the annoyed a vital point. This little boy is crying out to
his father, isn't that what we are or should be genuinely occupied with
doing right now?! "Nu!? Nu!!" He concluded, his eyes looking up to-
If tears or healthy prayer are not to be wasted, they need what we call
Kavana-direction. The most romantic love letter will never hit the mark if
the address is left off the envelope. When the Jewish People were
languishing under the brutal tyranny of the Egyptians, they eventually let
out a cry. That cry had a specific destination we are told. Now if that
small detail had been left out, the critical message may never have been
delivered and neither would we!
Have a good Shabbos
Text Copyright © 2001 Rabbi Label Lam and
Project Genesis, Inc.