Shemos: Seeing Accomplishment
Friday, January 12, 2007
There are many things that Israeli society needs to learn from the rest of Western Civilization. One of those things is marketing.
It seems that every major food store has to contain the word “zol” (cheap), in it. Whether it’s:
Kol Zol (Everything Cheap)
Zol Po (Cheap Here, which recently changed its name to “Aleph”, thankfully)
Zol Mehadrin (Cheap Extra-Kosher… don’t ask)
Pashut Zol (Simply Cheap)
and my personal favourite: Mr. Zol (Mr. Cheap… got to feel sorry for his wife).
So, I was thinking about opening a store myself. We’ll call it: Gum Zol L’Tova (This is Cheap For Good), which is a play off of the famous Gemara: Gum Zu L’Tova (This too is for the best).
Well... I found it funny...
Okay, on to Torah!“So they appointed taskmasters over the nation in order to afflict it with their burdens. They built treasure cities for Pharaoh – Pithom and Raamses” (Shemos 1:11)
The Gemara (Sotah 11a) states that despite the fact Pharaoh had a huge slave-labour force, the cities we were forced to build were built on land that was impossible to build on. One opinion states that as soon as one wall was put up, it would topple due to the poor foundations.
Rav Avraham Pam asks an interesting question.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis used Jews and Russian/Polish Prisoners of War as slave-labour. They had an immense pool of man-power. This man-power was put to full use in the Nazi war machine, by not only the Nazis, but also the business that supported them.
What did Pharaoh do?
He used his immense pool of slave-labour to build cities that he knew were impossible to build. We know that the Pharaohs throughout that period in history used their slave-labour to build the Pyramids and other magnificent constructions, in order that people should never forget them. Yet, Pharaoh seemingly wasted the pool of man-power that was at his disposable. Why did Pharaoh make such a poor management decision?
The answer Rav Pam gives is quite insightful.
The Nazis used their slave-labour in such a way, because they wanted to make the most of the situation. If you have the labour, use it! Pharaoh on the other hand, had a different goal: “…to afflict it (the nation) with their burdens” (1:11)
Pharaoh wasn’t out to build magnificent cities for himself; he was out to destroy the nation’s will-power. Pharaoh knew that no matter how hard a person has it, he still gains something, some pride or sense of consolation, when he sees his work complete. It’s quite easy for us to understand how the slaves who built the Pyramids felt after completing it. True, they were slaves. True, they were tortured and beaten. True, they were exhausted. However, at least they had some pride when the project was complete and they were able to see the fruit of their labour.
Pharaoh, on the other hand, was out the crush the spirit of the Jewish people. That was his goal and that is why he had them make futile attempts to make cities on such land. Not only did they work under horrific conditions, they accomplished nothing.
This lesson is applicable in many areas in life. One such area is growth in our Torah observance. If a non-religious person asked a rav how they should become religious, that rav will tell them: take it slowly, one mitzvah at a time. When a person “jumps in the deep end”, without any idea what he’s doing, he is doomed to fail. When he takes on too much, he is not prepared, and accomplishes little, if anything.
This applies to every person, no matter what background they come from, or what level they are holding on in life. In order to grow, a person needs to see accomplishment.
We see this in the current setup in the day of a yeshivah. In the morning, four hours are spent on in-depth analysis in Gemara. In our Kollel, we started a tractate a month before Rosh Hashanah. In the morning, we have covered 7 pages (both sides). Granted, this is with all sorts of additional commentaries; but we haven’t moved far. Had the whole day been set up for this type of learning, many people would leave. So, the afternoon is dedicated for faster learning in the Gemara. A person can go through a page a day, if he knows what he’s doing.
Why is it set up in this way? In the morning a person is certainly accomplishing, but he doesn’t see it so easily. The afternoons are spent covering ground. Not only is he accomplishing, he can also see the accomplishment.
This is an important lesson. Yes, we are supposed be constantly moving up, but we should do it in an intelligent way. We are only human and we must acknowledge the fact that we have a natural desire to see accomplishment in our lives. This is not only proper education for us, but for when we deal with our children and students as well.
With that, I wish you a great Shabbos!
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