Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekly E*Torah by Rabbi Avrohom Altein

How to Cut Your Losses
This Shabbat's Sidra describes how the enslavement of the Jewish Nation in Egypt began to crumble with the Ten Plagues. The first of these plagues was Blood; the waters of the Nile River changed to blood.

There most certainly was a "Plan of Action", a system and reasoning behind the order in which these ten plagues occurred. What why it that Blood was the very first plague?

Egypt was the most powerful world power at that time. Its empire and influence extended over the entire civilized world. The source of Egyptian wealth and prosperity was the Nile River. Each year the Nile overflowed into the Egyptian Delta bringing rich fertile soil. The Egyptian response to this was to treat the Nile River as a deity; they bowed to the river and worshipped it. And they imposed cruel slavery on the Jews, forcing them to become a peg in the wheel of the Egyptian economy.

The first plague was to demonstrate that the supreme power was not the economic wealth of the Nile. The supreme power is that of G-d, who gives life to all and desires what is just and kind. So the Nile River was transformed to a curse rather than a blessing, to convey this very important lesson.

Why though was the Nile changed to blood? Chassidic Philosophy explains this beautifully:

A nation in exile loses part of its identity. The spiritual meaning of Exile is assimilation and the beginning of assimilation is apathy. Jewish youth that were taught Hebrew language and culture but never experienced the excitement of learning Torah with passion and love, will be bored and apathetic about Jewish issues. And that cold indifference breeds assimilation.

Water is a coolant, so water is the symbol of being cool and indifferent. Blood is the symbol of life and warmth. That is why the first step towards leading the Jews out of exile, was to transform the cold waters of the Nile into a river of blood and to replace cold apathy with life and warmth.

A Jew that knows nothing about the beauty of Jewish life will give it all up for nothing, because he thinks that he has nothing to lose. But when Jewish life is imbued with passion, warmth and life, it grows ever stronger and stronger.

Weekly Smile
Nothing to Lose
Economic times were bad and becoming worse by the day. Two storekeepers met and shared their woes. One said that people are short on cash so they buy on credit and leave the store with no cash. He decided to offer a discount to those who pay upfront.

The other storekeeper replied, "My system is exactly the opposite. Those who buy on credit get a discount. In fact, I let them buy for free."

"Why in the world would you do that?" asked the first storekeeper. "Simple," said his friend. "Most people never pay what they owe. By discounting the price and charging them nothing, I cut my losses to nothing!"

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