As we know, Pharaoh refused to let the Jews go from Egypt, whether because G-d hardened his heart for some of the plagues or he just couldn’t bear to see his Jewish slaves free through the final knock-out rounds. Through ten plagues that destroyed Egypt and much of their people, including their first born males in the tenth plague, Pharaoh is intransigent and suffers the terrible consequences….Aside from Pharaoh, perhaps the second most stubborn individual in the Torah is Bilam, who was asked by Balak, the king of Moav, to curse the Jews….even though each and every time, G-d instead blessed them.
In both cases, it is clear that no individual, whether a king or a prophet, can go against that which G-d has decreed!
The lesson is clear: it is best to try to see what direction G-d is leading us forward in and to follow Him all the way, not only because that is the path of least resistance, but because that is what we are meant to do and where we are meant to go in our lives.
During Covid-19, it is easy to get down about all the people getting sick (many dying) and for the rest of us the intense feelings of isolation. However, during this time (and particularly this week of Thanksgiving), I am learning the importance of staying positive and appreciating all G-d’s blessings that we do have. More broadly, I am coming to understand that inside a person, G-d exists amidst love, kindness and cheerfulness: these are elements that nourish the flame of our soul and wherein G-d happily coexists with us. It makes a lot of sense that when we are angry, jealous, or sad, the holy Shechinah (presence of G-d) cannot fully reside inside us. Because G-d Himself is gracious, kind, and loving and created us from this, so His spirit within us (our soul) flourishes amidst these feelings, but diminishes within us like a flame without oxygen when we distance ourselves emotionally and spiritually.
Just like one candlelight extinguishes the darkness around it, so also the light that we nurture within ourselves can extinguish the darkness that we occasionally feel inside.
I remember not long ago my son-in-law, Itzchak telling me:
Tefillin are our antennas to Hashem!
And like an antenna, we are able to pray and have our signal amplified to G-d as well as be able to be imbued with G-d’s spirit and direction to us in life. With the Straps of the Tefillin as well as the boxes and knots, we spell out the letters of G-d’s name on our head and on our arm. Thus, we are not only wrapped in this “spiritual antenna,” but we literally wear G-d’s words on the parchment in the Tefillin boxes and with His holy name stamped on our centers of thought and feeling.
In short, Tefillin is opportunity for us to network over Wi-Fi with the Master of the Universe. It takes us out of the daily grind of looking at the world in selfish, shortsightedness of what’s in it for me today, and how can I get more gold and goodies than the next guy or girl. Inside all of us, we have a soul from G-d, and through our spiritual Wi-Fi connection, we can energize that part of ourselves with a good, strong signal straight to the Big Guy upstairs.