Kenneth Cohen

We Deserve Nothing

Parshat Va’era contains a description of the first seven plagues brought on the Egyptians. It begins with Hashem tells Moshe that He has heard the cries of the Jewish people, and He remembers His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This verse that speaks of remembering the covenant, has a serious implication. It appears that the Jewish people did not have their own merits to deserve redemption. Despite the cries and bitter slavery, it was the promise to the Patriarchs.

Many believed that the Jews in Egypt, were not on a very high level. They were influenced by the decadence of Egypt, and many were idol worshippers. It was even said that they had sunk to the forty-ninth level of impurity. They left Egypt just in the nick of time.

The message here is an important one. It comes from the Orchot Tzaddikim, who makes two points worth remembering. This is found in connection with the chapter on how to achieve happiness.

Just like the Jews in Egypt, we deserve nothing. Nobody owes us anything, and any good that comes to us, is a gift from Above. This leads to the second point. We must remind ourselves that any gift we receive, even if it is financial aid from one’s parents, all emanate from our Creator. He places the idea in the mind of the giver, to give a specific gift.

We achieve happiness when we are humbled by the realization that we have so much more than we deserve. We turn our hearts to G-d, and express constant gratitude for the abundance we have, but really don’t deserve.

The Jews in Egypt were redeemed because of the covenant. It is pretty clear that the miracles of the last seventy-five years in forming a Jewish State, has come to us as a gift from Above; not because we deserve it.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at