We have now entered a completely new phase in the story of the Jewish people: the slavery in Egypt. Before sending Moshe to Egypt to begin the redemption from the long, hard slavery, the Torah says: “During those many days, it happened that the king of Egypt died, and the Children of Israel groaned because of the hard work and they cried out. Their outcry because of the work went up to God. God heard their moaning, and God remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitzhak, and with Yaakov.” (Chapter 2, Verses 23-24)
Rebbe Noson comments that the time period we begin this week is called the Shovavim (which is an acronym for the first six parshas of the book of Shemot- Shemot, Va’Eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro and Mishpatim). During this time of the year some people have the custom to fast and to cry out to Hashem with extra prayers of teshuva, because during these days we read in the Torah about the exile in Egypt and the Jewish people’s redemption, which they merited because of their screams and moaning. Also today in our current state of exile, we need to cry out to Hashem and pray for our redemption just as our ancestors did in Egypt. Rebbe Noson explains that the main reason for all of the suffering and expressions of exile which a person goes though is because of a lack of knowledge, which is the aspect of shovavim. In addition to being an acronym of the parshas mentioned above, the word shovav means mischievous or naughty in Modern Hebrew. Without proper knowledge of the Torah and connection to our faith, we wander in the world like a crazy and mischievous person. However, when a person understands his current state of exile, how he is going after the arbitrary desires of his heart and not looking at the true purpose of his life, surely he will have mercy on himself and scream a lot to Hashem for help. Through prayer and crying out to Hashem a person will merit ‘to give birth’ to knowledge and expanded consciousness, meaning that Hashem will hear his prayers and grant him more knowledge. Through our prayers we can all merit both the general redemption and our own personal redemption, because all of our suffering in exile is due to a lack of knowledge. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Cutting Hair, 5th teaching)
Our salvation depends on using our power speech to speak words of prayer, and allowing our voices to cry out to Hashem. Speech is an expression of our thoughts and feelings, and in a deeper sense it is an expression of our soul. Rebbe Nachman says, based on the Holy Zohar and the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzhak Luria z”l), that on Pesach our power of speech left the exile. This is the aspect of Pe-sach, which means in Hebrew that our mouth is speaking and conversing. The Zohar explains that during the exile in Eygpt the Jewish people’s speech was also in exile and they couldn’t pray with words, only with groans and screams, as the Torah describes above. (Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, 88th Teaching) So to in our lives today, a large part of our own personal redemption from our personal Egypt is through the power of speech, specifically being able to express ourselves in prayer and being able to share with those who are close to us what we are going through.
I have felt in a personal sense strongly connected to this teaching this week. I just expressed to Hashem a few days ago in personal prayer that I feel like this is part of my galut (exile), not being able to express myself many times the way that I want to. I feel this also in my connection with G-d and also in personal relationships, both with family and with other people I meet. An example of this is that sometimes I hear in my head what I want to say to somebody, even just asking a simple question, and then something inside of me (probably fear) stops me from actually asking the question. This pains me. There are also words I want to express from my heart sometimes and I hold back and remain quiet. I have heard it explained that knowledge is when our hearts and our minds are connected and in harmony. Many times our heart doesn’t agree or want to follow what we understand to be true in our minds. I think that returning to true knowledge, as discussed in Rebbe Noson’s teaching above, is when our minds and our hearts become connected again through prayer.
“Against the length of this current exile which is called the exile of Edom… there is no advice and wisdom and understanding other than praying many prayers and supplications and yelling and screaming to Hashem without measure, because prayer is above everything and includes all of the fifty gates of holiness.” (Outpouring of the Soul, 82nd Teaching)
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)