Probably the most important lesson our Patriarchs teach us regarding their relationship with the Creator is to love Him and devote our lives to Him unconditionally.
This is a fundamental principle to entirely assimilate the uncontested fact that God is the creator of all, and that includes us. Once we fully understand that we come from Him, who also shows us the meaning of life in His Torah, we come to realize that there is no point for us to set out conditions for our relationship with Him.
The moment we fall into ego’s illusion that we are our own gods, living as separate entities from the Creator, we lose the true meaning of our individual and collective existence.
Our Patriarchs were beyond the limitations of intellect, understanding and sensation to approach the Creator as conceived by Judaism, under its principle that He has no definition. Hence, this approach implies and requires an unconditional attitude towards Him in every way, starting with our love for Him.
We love God because we come from His love. This fact allows us to know that love is our common bond with Him. Therefore love is also the means to transcend the limitations of consciousness in order to bond with Him as undefined has He is. Transcendence is the result of love when it is unconditional. In other words, as we love unconditionally we transcend the limitations (as “conditions”) of human consciousness.
In this context, unconditional love is the opposite expression of an egocentric approach to life. This means that ego limits and restricts our consciousness to its fantasies and illusions. The more selfish we are, the more isolated and constrained we become in our life, to the point that everything else is meaningless.
An egotistic attitude is directly proportional to a materialistic approach to life. We are attached to bad habits, negative behavioral patterns, unhealthy addictions and obsessions in direct proportion to ego’s fantasies and illusions. Thus we understand what our sages indicate when they say the Pharaoh represents an egotistic approach to life, and Egypt (as the space of of ego’s domain) the constrains and limitations of such approach.
Ego indeed sets our limitations as boundaries that separate us from our surroundings. We fulfill our personal pretensions first by letting ego control every level of consciousness, and then trying to control other people’s lives. This also was the case of the Pharaoh of Egypt on his people, and on the children of Israel.
God responds to Moses’ frustration over Pharaoh’s decision to make harder the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt. Moses knew that it was God’s decision behind Pharaoh’s, and complained to Him.
We read God’s answer at the beginning of this weekly portion.
“I appeared [lit. I was seen] to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Exodus 6:3)
Thus pointing out to Moses that the Patriarchs never questioned His decisions as God the Almighty, because their love was truly unconditional for Him.
As we said above, the lesson here is to accept God’s ways and attributes (either revealed to us or not) for the simple fact that He is our Creator. As long as we maintain this awareness permanently, we enable ourselves to relate to God not only as His creatures, but as an emanation of His love. Our love for Him must be as unconditional and endless as we conceive Him.
We must not fall into the illusion of conditioning and imagining God according to ego’s agenda. Should we fool ourselves creating an illusion of God the way ego imagines, desires and controls? A god according to what I want, desire or need, depending on the circumstances? And submit this illusion to ego’s wishes and demands? “Give me this, such, and that”… and then I will love you, dear god?
This delusional approach, epitomized by the Pharaoh of Egypt, gets its answer from the true God that is in undisputed control of His creation. An answer intended to reveal His ways and attributes to instruct humankind about the real purpose of life in the material world.
The ten plagues as the overwhelming manifestation of God’s dominion and control over His entire creation, in contrast to ego’s pretension to control human consciousness.
We referred in this blog to the meanings of the plagues in our previous commentary on Parshat Vaeira: “Love as freedom from ego’s dominion”. The plagues convey profound lessons to redirect ego’s negative approach towards positive and uplifting ways and means. These allow us to assimilate life as an extension of God’s love for us to relate with Him.
The plagues were not intended to destroy the king of Egypt but to teach him in particular, and human consciousness in general, that love’s ways and attributes are the means through which ego (as a driving force of life), must be directed.
The restricted and constraining space in which ego limits our consciousness (represented by the land of Egypt) must be devastated in order to be abandoned and evacuated. Once we leave behind all restrictions from ego’s domination, we turn into a vessel to be filled by God’s ways and attributes, revealed in His Torah.
As we have said before, this vessel is humbleness. In this sense humbleness enables us to be unconditional in our love to approach every aspect of life. Our oral tradition teaches that Moses became “God’s loyal servant”. Humbleness was the means that made him close to the Creator, gaining the right to be called “the humblest man who ever lived”.
In sum, the essential message of this portion is humbleness as the premise to love God unconditionally. Humbleness in direct opposition to ego’s separatist agenda. We often say that love does not cohabit with anything opposed to its ways and attributes. Our sages also say that the Creator doesn’t dwell with the arrogant, simply because he doesn’t have space except for himself.
The prophet summarizes this essential message in the haftarah for this portion.
“Thus said the Lord God: ‘behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his rivers, who has said: “My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself”’.” (Ezekiel 29:3)