An act never dies. Each word you utter, each mitzvah you do, continues to ring in the world for all eternity. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, teaches it was such an eternal act that was the undoing of Pharaoh and the making of Israel as a nation of holy people.
When Yosef HaTzaddik heard his father was coming down to Mitzrayim, the pasuk says, “vayeser es merkavto” – Yosef ran out and with his own hands pulled the horses out of the stable and harnessed them to his chariot to go meet his father. The Sages ask, What’s this? Is it proper for a regent, a vice regent of Egypt who has so many servants, to do that himself?
The Sages answer, “Gedola ahava – how great is the love he has for his father – shemekalkeles es hashura – it caused him to do improper things.” He did something improper. He couldn’t wait. My father is coming to Mitzrayim! He was so excited out of love for his father; that’s how it should be.
Our sages tell us that act never died. It continued on and on. What happened? Over 200 years later, Bnei Yisrael marched out of Mitzrayim. Then Pharaoh had a change of heart. He became very angry at himself. Look what we did, he said, sending Bnei Yisrael out – and he ran out of his palace and harnessed his chariot.
“Vayeser es merkavto.” He harnessed his chariot himself. His servants said, “Master, let us do it.” He replied, “Nothing doing. I have to get even with those Hebrews.” He was boiling with anger and he couldn’t wait, so he harnessed it himself.
Now listen what our Sages tell us. It’s a principle, not just a one-time story. “Tova hasara she’asash Yosef Hatzaddik – that act when Yosef harnessed his own horses, that act never died – u’tiakev al hasara she’asah Paroh, and it came and it counteracted Pharaoh’s act.” It defeated Pharaoh’s intention. The righteousness of Yosef when he was so impatient out of love for his father lived on and on and was able to overcome the act of Pharaoh.
Now this needs more explanation, but we see from this teaching that an act doesn’t die. And so when Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah they are no longer of this world, they are forever. When you say Shema Yisrael, or when you say or do anything to serve Hashem, you’re investing in eternity. You’re a person who’s forever. You are eternal, you are the am olam, the eternal people.
Not only are you a nation that will forever exist, you’ll also live forever in the World to Come. When you look back and start discovering what the cause was that brought this about, it’s nothing but the shibud of Mitzrayim, the oppression in Egypt, which caused them to accept the Torah.
When we sit at the Pesach Seder, we discuss two things. We are bnei chorin, free men. We’re serving Hashem b’simcha, our family is around us, and we have good things to eat on the table. At the same time we remind ourselves of Egypt with all the signs of poverty like matzah, hah lachma anya (the bread of affliction), and we talk about the shibud Mitzrayim.
We have to realize that one is the cause of the other. We are bnei chorin, we are going to serve Hashem in this world, and our acts are forever. When you make kiddush, it’s forever. That kiddush will never stop. That cup will go on forever and forever. The matzah will go on forever and ever. The four questions will resound from your little boy who asks the four kashas, even when he’ll become an old grandfather. But he’ll be forever asking the four kashas in gan eden of his father and his father of his father and his father of his father. All the generations asking the four kashas in gan eden are enjoying it no end. Every act is forever.
That eternity, that nitzchius, was the result of one thing – the shibud Mitzrayim.
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
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