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"We survived Pharaoh, we'll survive this too," but will we be better because of it?

בני ישראל עבדים במצרים
ציור: יואל וקסברגר, מלכות וקסברגר

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

"We survived Pharaoh, we'll survive this too." This famous sentence, written by Meir Ariel z"l, is suitable for this week's Torah portion and is suitable for the lockdown that begins tomorrow as well. Ever since slavery in Egypt, in the face of every calamity and distress, this has been our motto. We have known more difficult times, and we can draw strength from history, from a sense of proportion, from the fact that we survived crises greater than this.

But this is not enough. The question is: In what manner will we manage to survive this? The parasha describes in one sentence the essence of Jewish resilience: "But as much as they would afflict them, so did they multiply and so did they gain strength." Our goal is not only to survive the crisis but to flourish from it. The worse the suffering gets, the more we gather strength. During our servitude in Egypt, we grew to desire not merely a return to normal, but redemption. Ever since then, for more than 3,000 years, we have contended with many crises, but always grew and achieved greatness through them.

It is hard at the present moment for all of us. We are all in distress. "We survived Pharaoh, we will survive this too," with G-d's help. But afterwards, how will we look when the pandemic is over? Which treasures will be discovered and which blessings will be revealed? Which positive changes – on a personal, national, and worldwide level – will we see?


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