First the good news, just for you, Bnos Avigail. Our dear Elior Tziporah Garfinkel is engaged, the first of our girls to move on towards the next step in their lives. It’s always moving to see this happen. Two people meet, and they create a new link in a chain that goes further back than either of them can possibly know or even imagine. Think about your own life. What exactly were the odds of your parents meeting each other? Didn’t they have to know some of the same people ,or work at the same job, or just be in the right place at the right time? How much of this had to do with choices their own parents made when they chose their life styles? How much orchestration from Above was in your great grandparent’s hearts when they chose to live where they lived when the world was turning upside down? All of the “coincidental meetings”, roads, and “mistakes’ flow from one Source. The difficulty in keeping this in mind, is that when you are here, it’s hard to look up. Dealing with the here and now is necessary; ultimately this is why G-d put your soul into a body. If you never look up, however, you are in danger of forgetting how much G-d cares about you. There’s nothing like an engagement to get you to look up again, and to at least for a few minutes realize how intricate the web really is, and how beloved each character in the ongoing play is to the conclusion which will be reached only when Moshiach comes. In the meantime, the main thing is to avoid being a slave.
Actual slavery is alive and well in the 21st century, Mauritania in fact only made enslaving another person a criminal offense in 2007! This is not what I had in mind. The cruelest master is, as you all know, yourself. The most oppressed slave is similarly, no one other than you. Your inner self is inherently pure and eternal. Your inclination towards all of the Bad Stuff is a gift presented to you in order to make challenge real and dynamic. So far, so good. The problem begins when you no longer “hear” which side of you is doing the talking. If you want to stay free, you have to not allow the lower self to enslave you to its unending litany of “I want”s. They, (the real and eternal you, and the drive to disengage from anything that doesn’t give you immediate and transient pleasure), both tend to use the word “I” as in “I want to really learn something of value” and (same day) “I just want to show her that she can’t just get away with it”. Your higher self and your lower self both answer to the same name, “I”. As soon as one of them is relegated to the word, “you”, the battle is all over. Just listen to what the dialogue sounds like. “I just want a few more minutes to check my email, have another coffee, and maybe make a call”. “You really should get to class now.” How likely is it that you will make it to class. OR, “I don’t have to give anyone the right to decide how I should respond. I don’t want to be either angry or vengeful, and I don’t have be.” Followed by, “You shouldn’t let her take advantage”. You will have just strengthened your higher self!
Rav Dessler says that trick is learning to listen to which side of you is the winner of the moment. The stakes are high. The eternal self, which is the most genuine and enduring self you will ever have, can easily be enslaved. The Shlah relates these ideas to the Parshah. It begins with the laws of a Hebrew slave. Unlike contemporary slavery, the Torah allows a person to sell himself into slavery because of abject poverty, or allows the court to sell him into slavery in order to make it possible to pay back his victims if he is a thief. In either case, the term of his bondage is six years. The seventh year, he goes free. This may seem archaic, but it isn’t. Each person is a miniature world. The cycle of the world’s planned existence as we know it is similar to the cycle of the Hebrew slave’s term of servitude and freedom. The world was created in six days, which hint at the six years of slavery. In the larger picture, it also hints at six millennia (periods of a thousand years) from Adam’s creation. The seventh day, parallel to the seventh year when the slave is freed, was Shabbos. This hints at the age of Moshiach, when the sanctity and blessing that is inherent in the fulfillment of the world’s potential will be “freed” and revealed. During the first six thousand years, we all have the to potential to either enslave ourselves or to be free. This isn’t only true in the broad historical sense. In the course of the normal span of your lifetime, you can make the same choice. You can be a slave to your lower and less authentic self, or not. Once you decide to be free, you will find yourself looking up, noticing Hashem’s goodness and His presence in your life.
I have friends who made this choice. Chana Gillman, who some of you know, could have ended her stay in this world as a slave to Ann Klein, Donna, and the other Big Brands that dominated the fashion scene when she was one of their fastest rising stars. She was on the business end; determining what is ‘in’ and what is hopelessly Out. She saw the empty façade of living that surrounded her, from the hollow cheeked models to the cash driven higher ups and she chose the exit out when it was open to her. When she speaks in seminaries today, she conveys more than a fascinating story. She conveys a sense of freedom that most of us don’t have enough sense to envy.
When you look, and see Hashem’s care and involvement in your life, be aware that He believes in you. Let it be the key to your freedom.