Getting ‘Egypt’ out of us is much, much harder than getting out of Egypt
Rav Natan of Breslov taught that getting ‘Egypt’ out of ourselves is really the whole essence of geula. But practically speaking, what does this actually mean?
‘Egypt’ actually refers to all our lusts, desires and negative character traits.
The agreement that we made with Hashem is to work on our lusts and negative traits, so that we can actually connect to Hashem. We need to remove these things from inside ourselves, and work on rectifying our internal reality.
A question is asked about Matan Torah: Hashem revealed Himself during the giving of the Ten Commandments, when He was telling Am Yisrael: Don’t murder; don’t steal; don’t commit adultery; don’t covet; don’t tell falsehoods. Apparently, there’s a question here:
Why did Hashem have to reveal Himself in the biggest Divine revelation since the creation of the world simply in order to tell us about a bunch of laws and commandments that could be easily grasped by a person’s own intellect?
The non-Jews also forbid murder…
After all, even in the goyim’s judicial statutes, you’ll find laws saying ‘don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery. In fact, their laws are often harsher than our laws, when it comes to these matters. Islam and Christianity also state: don’t murder, don’t steal. So why did Hashem reveal Himself in such a big display of Divine revelation simply in order to tell us these things?
Even if God hadn’t told us these things at Matan Torah, we still would have written these things as laws. Every country in the world has these things encoded in their laws. So let’s ask the question again: Why did God have to specifically tell us these things?
The Jewish 10 Commandments is something completely different
We should know that when Hashem was telling us don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t sully yourself with immorality, etc, during the Ten Commandments, this wasn’t the same sort of ‘don’t murder and don’t steal’ that you find by the goyim. It was referring to something completely different.
The goyim understood that they need to have these laws in order to be able to properly administer and manage society and countries in an efficient way. They understood that the moment you don’t have a law stating that it’s forbidden to steal, and forbidden to murder, the country will cease to exist, because everything will become corrupted and destroyed. So they were obliged to make these laws, and to create a police force to enforce them.
But the ‘don’t murder’ and the ‘don’t steal’ that’s written in the Ten Commandments is a completely different matter. It’s much deeper, and much more internal. Hashem gave us these commandments in order to completely remove these traits from the innermost level of our Nefesh, our soul.
An angry Jew is not keeping the commandment ‘do not murder’
By the goyim, this doesn’t matter. As long as they didn’t kill anyone, they are keeping the commandment not to murder. But a Jew who doesn’t merit to completely eradicate his anger, and his harsh judgments against others, and to erase the jealousy and hatred from inside his heart, effectively he still isn’t managing to keep Hashem’s commandment to not murder.
That’s what makes our Ten Commandments completely different.
Everything that the Torah reveals to us, it’s all just in order for us to eradicate our bad middot (character traits), and our needless lusts for the things of this world. A person could sail round the world 10 times in a row, he could climb the highest mountains, and he can do the most foolhardy, difficult things – and not one of them will come anywhere close to the difficulty working on our bad middot and lusts entails.
That’s why Chazal told us: Who is a mighty man? He who conquers his own evil inclination.
True bravery only applies to conquering your own inclination for evil. But now that we’ve fallen to the low places that we’ve fallen to, and descended to the depths we’ve descended to, we need to know a very important rule:
We can’t do this by ourselves.
Translated and adapted from Rav Ofer Erez’s teachings in the Ohr HaDaat newsletter, #119.