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Thought for the Day: Using This World Efficiently

The second book of our chumash begins with a listing by name of Yaakov Avinu and his 12 .  Rashi tells us that they are beloved to HaShem and likened to the stars that He brings out and takes back in by name (Y'shayahu 40:26).  It was only after that exalted generation was gone that the harsh treatment of Klal Yisrael at the hands of the Miztri'im began, and from there got steadily and progressively worse.  Seems a bit unfair, no?  Here they are in a foreign land, forced their by a famine, and now they are being treated to the worst kind of unfounded xenophobia.  Where is G-d?  Oh... there He is; after things have gotten so bad that their babies are being ripped from their mothers' arms and thrown into the Nile to drown, after decades and decades of backbreaking and fruitless labor, finally, finally... "HaShem heard their groaning and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitchak, and with Yaakov."  (Sh'mos 2:24).  He couldn't have paid attention a few decades earlier?

This is getting heavy... we need a joke.  A guy takes his donkey to the donkey obedience school.  He is handed a two-by-four and a sack of sugar cubes.  He is instructed to stand in front of his donkey, wack him with the two-by-four and give him a command.  If he does as told, give him a sugar cube.  He asks, "So much negative reinforcement?!"  The instructor says, "Oh no!  We don't believe in negative reinforcement at all.  You must only reward when he follows instructions."  "But what about the two-by-four??"  "Oh, that.  First you need to get his attention."

The S'porno notes that the listing of names that begins with Yaakov Avinu and continues through to his children stops there for a reason; the tzadikim of the next generation  were not up to the level of their forebears.  They were not at a lower level because of the harsh treatment of the Mitzri'im, rather the harsh treatment of the Mitzri'im started because the generations were not living up to their potential.  Living a torah life in galus is difficult.  So difficult, says the Chasam Sofer, that we are rewarded with Yom Tov sheini for being diligent about keeping the first day.  Klal Yisrael could have gotten everything their neshama needed out of galus Mitzrayim just by doing mitzvos and living a Torah lifestyle; all in a friendly, albeit foreign, environment.  They could have.. but they didn't, so external forces were imposed and the harsh treatment began.  It could have stopped any time; any time at all.

Why did HaShem wait all the way till pasuk 24 to harken to us?  Because we waited till pasuk 23 to say, "Abba, we need you."

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