The Weekly Sedra – Parshas Shemos

By Shalom Goldberg

The Rebbe says:

1. During it’s description of the horrible Egyptian exile, the Torah says, “They embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks…”.

2. The Rebbe analyzes this:

The true life of a Jew is not his physical life; it is his spiritual life. Therefore, when the Torah says that the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Jewish people it must also be referring to their spiritual lives, their true life.

3. The Rebbe now questions this:

Question: It makes perfect sense for the “hard work, with mortar and with bricks” to embitter the physical lives of the Jewish people. However, how does “hard work, with mortar and with bricks” embitter the spiritual life of a Jew?

Granted, “hard work, with mortar and with bricks”, can get in the way of a Jew’s spiritual life because he will not have time or energy for learning Torah or doing Mitzvos (commandments). However to say that, “hard work, with mortar and with bricks”, actually embittered the spiritual lives of the Jewish people is hard to understand.

4. To answer this, the Rebbe first explains what “hard work” means:

If we first understand what kind of “hard work” embittered their lives, we can then understand how it embittered their spiritual lives.

The Rambam defines “hard work” to mean “work that has no end and or meaning to it”.

The spiritual meaning of work which has no end or meaning to it is as follows:
The Torah gave us a limit as to how involved we can get in our business dealings which is just as much as we need to make a vessel for the Blessings of Hashem (G-d) to find us. The Torah says, “By the work of your hands you shall eat”; in other words, we are only supposed to involve our hands in our work while our mind and spirit are kept free to think about Hashem.

If our work has no end, meaning that we stay late after work to plan new strategies of how to make more money and therefore we do not Daven with a Minyan three times a day and we do not have time to learn Torah, then it will be work senseless work because we will not make any more money then what Hashem decided we are going to make this year, and on the contrary, we may even get in the way of Hashem’s Blessing for us,!

5. The Rebbe now answers how “hard work, with mortar and with bricks” can embitter the spiritual life of a Jew:

Everything that Hashem created in this world has a boundary and limit. If so, where can “work which has no end or meaning” come from? It must come from the Holy Soul found within every Jew which is literally a part of Hashem and is therefore not limited.

We can use our Holy Soul’s unlimited strength for the good, like for example giving up our life for Hashem when put to the test, which is higher then all reason and logic. Or, we can use our Holy Soul’s unlimited strength for the bad, like for example doing work which has no end or no meaning.

If we choose to use our Holy Soul’s special strength for the bad, we are actually embittering it because it cannot stand to be used for bad things. This is also what the Torah means when it says that during the Egyptian exile the spiritual lives of the Jewish people were embittered through “hard work, with mortar and with bricks”; the Egyptians caused the Jewish people to tap into their unlimited reservoir of strength to fill their exhaustive quota of their working day.

6. The lesson for us in our lives:

We have unlimited strength and power from Hashem, let’s use it for the good.

Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume three, second Sicha.

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