Va’era: Never tolerate the intolerable!
We should never tolerate an intolerable situation. In Parshat Va’era (Shemot 6:6) Hashem promises the suffering Israelites in Egypt,
“Vehotseiti etchem mitachet sivlot Mitzrayim,” – “I will deliver you from under the burdens of Egypt.”
The Chidushei HaRim brilliantly explains that the term ‘sivlot’ meaning the burdens, the suffering of the people comes from the same root as two other words: ‘savlanut’ meaning patience and ‘sovlanut’ meaning tolerance. He explains that sometimes one can be enduring a totally unacceptable situation, however one gets used to it; one succumbs and one starts to tolerate it.
In other circumstances one might exercise patience, believing that actually one should fight against a particular circumstance, that it’s totally unacceptable; but one waits for the right moment which never comes and as a result the savlanut, the patience, leads to sovlanut, which is tolerance.
This, explains the Chidushei HaRim, is what happened to the Israelites in Egypt. They suffered many years of slavery. They got used to it. They never believed that the situation could change. As a result they tolerated what the Egyptians made them go through. Hashem therefore declared,
“Vehotseiti etchem mitachat sivlot Mitzrayim,” – I will deliver you from the ‘sivlot’ – from your patience, your tolerance. First of all you need to be delivered from your negativity, your acceptance of an unacceptable situation. Hashem says you need to deliver yourselves from your defeatist attitude and only after that will I be able to deliver you physically from the slavery in Egypt.
Of course when it comes to unacceptable circumstances one needs to pick the right time and method, but we should never get used to an intolerable situation to the extent that we just allow it to happen. This applies to ourselves, to the situations that we are going through, and equally to situations that we see others going through; we need to do what we can in order to help them in their time of trouble.
So from Parshat Va’era we learn an important lesson: that we should never tolerate an intolerable situation.
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