Linda Pardes Friedburg
Russian-speaking American Israeli Community-building Mom

Vaera: Maslow and the long road to Eretz Yisrael

The Judean Desert above the Dead Sea, January 2023 (Photo: Linda Pardes Friedburg)

God opens this Parasha with the biggest news ever – to Moshe, and to all of us reading today.

He says He hears our crying out (indeed how important it is to cry out and pray when we suffer) and that He remembers His Covenant with us. According to the psukim, this Covenant is His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to bring us to Eretz Yisrael.

“וְגַ֣ם | אֲנִ֣י שָׁמַ֗עְתִּי את נַֽאֲקַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִצְרַ֖יִם מַֽעֲבִדִ֣ים אֹתָ֑ם, וָֽאֶזְכֹּ֖ר אֶת־בְּרִיתִֽי” (שמות 6:5)

But back then in the bowels of Egypt, we cannot hear this promise, because of our “shortness of breath/spirit and hard labor.”
“וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵֽעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה:” (שמות 6:9)

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks describes this phenomenon through Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. People who are coping to survive, physically or emotionally, cannot think spiritually or believe in long- term promises. That is why it is so important, says Rav Sacks, to worry first about our fellow human’s “Olam HaZeh” – their physical and emotional needs in this world, and our own spiritual “Olam Haba,” and not the other way around (quoting Rav Yisrael Salanter and others).

I also see in the four stages of Redemption that God reveals here – ארבע לשונות הגאולה that we recall every Pesach – a sensitivity to this process:

“Therefore, say to the children of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt… and I will save you from their labor and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm..and I will take you to me as a nation…and you will know that I am the Lord your God who took you out from under the burdens of Egypt.'”

After first saving our nascent nation from physical harm and slavery, God promises us a spiritual future as well, as His People.

The fifth stage of Redemption, paralleling Maslow’s highest level of self-realization, follows right afterwards:

“And I will bring you to the Land for which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the Lord.” (Shmot 6:6-8)

Only here, in Eretz Yisrael, can the nation of Israel reach its highest potential. So taught our first Chief Rabbi – HaRav Kook – and so our very lives here prove, despite our infighting, despite our enemies.

God is keeping his promise. He is miraculously returning us here, every day, to raise children and grandchildren in Eretz Yisrael.

Our challenge is to realize that both our personal and national self-realization require a spiritual revolution – to inspire the world not just through our achievements in technology, medicine, and agriculture, but through the wisdom of our Torah, through our ethics, our values, our love for Shabbat, for our familes, for one another.

Even when it’s very hard. We need only to cry out, to be kind, and to seek out our life source, and God will continue to redeem us.

Shabbat shalom!

About the Author
Linda Pardes Friedburg made Aliyah from New Jersey in 1990. She is Founding Director of Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli National Jewish Leadership Initiative for Young Russian-Speaking Israelis, is grateful for her six kids and one Belarussian husband, and still feels the need to pinch herself every time she drives up the hill to Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion, their home since 1994. OLIM FOR TZAHAL
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