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The Focus of God's Zoom Lens

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

A Midrash in Parshat Emor states that in the merit of four things, the Jews merited to be redeemed from Egypt. They did not change their names, their language, their mode of dress and they did not speak Lashon Hara (slander).

Rashi in Parshat Beshalach quotes a teaching that only one fifth of the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt and the remaining 80% perished in the plague of darkness. The curious thing is that the Midrashim do not explain why these Hebrews did not merit the exodus. The logical conclusion must be that the 80% of the nation that did not merit redemption were assimilated to the degree that they lost all connection to the traditions of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.By changing their names, language, mode of dress and speaking Lashon Hara they had severed their relationship to B’nei Yisrael (the children of Jacob) and were thus not worthy of redemption.

One should bare in mind that the 20% of the Hebrews that were in fact redeemed were themselves idolaters and steeped in sin. This is abundantly clear from the Midrash that states that when the Jewish people were in the process of crossing the reed sea, the angels turned to God and said to Him “These are idolaters (referring to the Jewish people) and these are idolaters (referring to the Egyptians.” When one comes to think about it deeply, it is astounding. We have a people steeped in sin, and the gravest of all sins, and God redeems them because of four seemingly minor observances!

Rebbi Natan, the foremost student of Rebbi Nachman of Breslev explains that the above teaches us a fundamental lesson. God chose to focus his lens and zoom in on the good he could find in the Jewish people, and not to focus on their flaws and negativity. This Godly trait was the basis of the redemption from Egypt. We are commanded to emulate God’s ways and it is our divine mission to focus our zoom lenses on the positive and good within every person. If God looked passed idol worship and focused on our more minor positive attributes, then we can certainly do the same for others. May we thus merit the final redemption speedily in our days.