Thursday, January 15, 2015
Vaera- Lo Alecha Hamlacha Ligmor: You are not obligated to finish the work
Lakhein emor livnei-Yisrael “Ani Adonai v’hotzeiti etkhem mitachat sivlot Mitzrayim v’hitzalti etkhem mei’avodatam v’ga’alti etkhem bizroa n’tuyah uvishpatim g’dolim.”
Therefore, say to the children of Israel, “I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (Shemot 6:6)
“There is still so much more work to do.” This is the sentence with which I ended last week’s drash. Here it is- the outstretched arm. The arm Rav Kook, saw as a move towards the future.
Anokhi asiti et-ha’aretz, et-ha’adam v’et-ha’b’heimah asher al-p’nei ha’aretz, bkhochi hagadol, uvi’z’ro’i ha’n’tuyah; u’n’tatiha, la’asher yashir b’einav. “I have made the earth, the human, and the beast that is upon the face of the earth, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and I gave it to the one who was right in my eyes.” (Jeremiah 27:5) For Jeremiah, the outstretched arm is the creative force.
Midrash teaches that Pharaoh’s daughter stretched out her arm to bring in the basket in which baby Moshe was placed. The outstretched arm is a saving force.
The National Center for Jewish Healing, which is a North American program from the Jewish Board of Family and Child services, calls its journal The Outstretched Arm.
Psalm 136:12 says B’yad chazakah, uvizroa ntuyah: ki l’olam chasdo; with a strong hand and an outstretched arm: for God’s mercy endures forever.
Just as Rav Kook taught, an outstretched arm is unrealized potential. It is the creative hand of the artist, of the chef. It is the comforting arm of a parent or a guardian. It is the arm of a doctor, a nurse, a counselor, all who help in health and healing. It is the arm of anyone in our lives who might comfort us. This is the arm of a teacher or a friend. It is the arm of a carpenter, and electrician, a tradesperson. It is the outstretched arm of a child, filled with potential. It is the symbol of the future.
Pirkei Avot (2:21) teaches, "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." That outstretched arm is the symbol of the start. We must be part of it, to stretch out our arms and get our hands dirty.