Winter in Yerushalaim is so different than in anywhere else in the world. When you say shma, you recount Hashem’s care and love for us. The way it is demonstrated isn’t by Divine passivity; it is defined by His presence in our moment to moment lives in real time. All life depends on water and when it rains you are actually seeing life force descend. Until now the winter here was dry, cold, and gray. Each drop of rain feels like a kiss. That doesn’t mean that it is comfortable. Or easy to walk when it storms. Or easy to like its high drama at the moment it hits you.
Is rain a miracle? If you look at Ramban at the end of this week’s Parshah (which I’m sure you were all planning to do), you would find a way of looking at it, and at many other facets of reality through different lenses. He tells you not to expect the kind of miracles out did your wildest Technicolor imagination fueled fantasy of what could happen. Hashem wants us to discover Him without the razamatazz. Find Him in your heart and in your mind. When you realize this you are free to relive what the Jews experienced in Egypt without assuming that you ARE the Jews in Egypt. You are you. You can let yourself think about who you would be if you were actually there. When you do that, what you may find is the real you, the one that believes in miracles. Think for a moment about the plague of darkness. The atmosphere thickened to prevent light from penetrating and thickened more to prevent movement. This is far beyond what anyone could call “darkness”. The light that the Jews experienced was unlike any ordinary physical light that you see when you open your eyes in the morning. It was the blazing radiance of the light that was created on the first day, light that is experienced on a daily basis when you learn, feel inspired and daven. It is never strong enough to take on actual physical properties-for us that light is spiritual and invisible. For the Jews in Egypt the force of the spiritual light penetrated physicality so that they actually saw the darkness tht surrounded the Egyptians. They knew that they were lost in the physical manifestation of the darkness that defined them in every way.
Ramban tells you that Hashem isn’t going to repeat miracles such as these for everyone who entertains doubts. You can’t “order” a miracle. You can use your insight into what this Parshah tells you to change your life by letting the many mitzvos that are there to commemorate what happened in Egypt touch you. You don’t have to pass a mezuzah, kiss it, and move on. You can look at it for a split second and think about the moment that doorposts were part of the story of the exodus. You can (at least some of the time) let your heart and your mind work together.
There were and are people who do this successfully. They had with what I would call “miracle consciousness”. What that means is that they saw everything in life as an expression of Hashem’s will. For my friend, Henny Machlis enjoying the happy endings (from “and everyone had enough to eat” to “and in the end they both got married”) were just as miraculous as anything that took place thousands of years ago in Egypt.
There are times when letting the exodus touch you is easier than other times. These weeks in which the Torah portion narrates the exodus of course is one of them. For me, when I go to the Kotel and see the masses of people from different cultures and backgrounds looking at the Wall with such awe, I can see them with packs on their backs leaving Goshen and the rest of Greater Egypt to parts unknown. There are also places that are particularly evocative. When I go to Tzfat, and walk the streets that the people who saw Hashem with the moment by moment, something in me make more demands. It tells me to wake up already.
Most of you are living in places where YOU are the light! Your lifestyle says it all. You aren’t just into earning it and spending it. You want more. More light, more meaning. You made choices that show that you did more than want. You actually BRING the light of Torah with you just by being yourselves.
For those of you who are here, I am adding an enclosure about a Shabbos in Tzfat. It may bring you some of the light of shovavim (these weeks of redemption).