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A Contemporary Struggle!

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Moshe returns to Egypt and approaches Pharoah with God’s simple request for a three-day holiday pilgrimage for the Hebrews to serve God. Pharoah refuses because of the great loss of productive work. Pharoah then goes on to state that the issue is that the Hebrews have too much time on their hands and, therefore, have begun occupying themselves with ‘spiritual nonsense.’ Pharoah decrees that the Hebrews workload be increased to remove their free time in which they occupy themselves with ‘spiritual falsehoods.’

The Torah is an eternal document and, therefore, we must discover the relevance of this narrative to our lives today, in the 21st century. I would suggest the following application (based on the Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato’s epic work, Mesilat Yesharim): Pharoah represents the internal and external evil inclination (Yetzer Rah). Moshe and Aharon represent our good inclination (Yetzer Tov), which propels us towards spiritual endeavors and the service of God. Our evil inclination, on the other hand, does everything to prevent us from being involved in spiritual endeavors. The modus operandi (M.O.) of the evil inclination is to keep us busy and distracted, devouring our time, thereby, limiting our involvement in spiritual pursuits.

Today, with the advent of the internet, social media, and the incredible range of entertainment activities constantly available to us, the evil inclination has powerful tools at its disposal. To succeed spiritually, we need to heed the calling of our good inclination (Moshe and Aharon) to block off time for spiritual involvement and endeavors. The only way to advance spiritually is to pull ourselves away from all the distractions around us and dedicate our minds and energies to spiritual matters.

There is a vital additional message contained in this narrative: the spiritual journey is not necessarily linear. As we grow, our evil inclination will attempt to double its efforts to throw us back into busyness and distraction. We should not be disheartened by temporary setbacks, because if we keep struggling forward, God will ultimately redeem us from the slavery of busyness and distraction!