What Does It Mean that Before the Egyptian Minister Fell, Their Outcry Was Not Answered, in the Work?
Article 15, 1990
The Zohar (Shemot [Exodus], Item 341) says, “As long as their minister had dominion over Israel, Israel’s outcry was not heard. When their minister fell, it is written, ‘The king of Egypt died.’ And promptly, ‘And the children of Israel sighed from the work, and they cried, and their outcry went up unto God.’ But until that time, their outcry was not answered.”
We should understand this: If he says that before their minister fell, their outcry was not answered, who caused their minister to fall so that afterward it will be possible to hear their outcry? We should also understand why, if their minister had dominion, it is impossible for their outcry to be answered. Does their minister have the power to detain the prayers of Israel? We should also understand what is written (Exodus 5:22), “Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not saved Your people at all.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand he will send them.’”
We should understand Moses’ argument when he said, “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not saved Your people at all.” It appears as though Moses’ complaint was true, since it implies from the Creator’s reply that what Moses said was true. But the Creator said, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh.” In other words, he would see what the Creator would do to Pharaoh. It seems as though it should have said, “You will see,” meaning that Moses will see, meaning Atah [you] with an Aleph [which changes the meaning from “now” to “you”]. Why is it written Atah with an Ayin [which means “now”], which implies that now he will see? It means that when he came to Pharaoh previously, and he harmed this people, there could not be an exodus from Egypt. But now there will be a place for with a mighty hand he will send them and drive them out.
We should understand why specifically now is the place of the exodus from Egypt. There are two things to understand here: 1) why when he came as the Creator’s messenger, the situation of the people of Israel grew worse. 2) why specifically now, after the situation has deteriorated, there can be an exodus from Egypt.
We should interpret this in the work. The ARI says that the exile in Egypt was that the view of Kedusha [holiness] was in exile. This means that the Klipa of Egypt ruled over the people of Israel. We should interpret that the people of Israel means that the whole nation wanted to work for the sake of the Creator and not for their own sake, as it is known that “Israel” means Yashar-El [straight to the Creator], meaning everything for the Creator.
The governance of Pharaoh is the opposite: to work only for one’s own sake. For this reason, the view of Kedusha means that we must work for the sake of the Creator, meaning to bestow. This discernment was in exile under the rule of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, where Mitzrayim [Egypt] has the letters of Metzar-Yam [narrow sea], and it is known that “narrow” means scarce in Hassadim [mercies].
It is like the [Hebrew] expression, “narrow eyed” [jealous], meaning that he can only receive and not give anything. “Wide” means expansive, meaning giving much, and “narrow” is the opposite, not giving, which means that the Klipa [shell/peel] of Egypt was that each one could work only in order to receive in return. But without return, meaning only to bestow, he does not permit any action. This is considered that Egypt was narrowing [constraining] the quality of Israel.
By this we can interpret what our sages said, “Anyone who constrains Israel becomes a Rosh [head].” That is, who can control the quality of Israel? Only he who is the Rosh, he governs. Then he constrains the quality of Israel, not letting one work for the sake of the Creator, which is called to engage in Hesed [mercy], but only in reception for oneself. This is called “the Klipa of Egypt.”
Therefore, the order of the work is as our sages said, “One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], and from Lo Lishma, we come to Lishma [for Her sake], since the light in it reforms him.” This is so because man was born with a desire to receive for himself. Hence, if we want him to do something, to emerge from the state where he is used to working for his sustenance, meaning a person is told, “Until now you knew that all your pleasures, by which you sustain the body so it can exist, came only from corporeal things. You found pleasure only in corporeal things, and this is called ‘the sustenance of the body.’ Engage in Torah and Mitzvot, where greater pleasure is clothed, so it is better for you to engage in Torah and Mitzvot because by this you will have more pleasure.”
It is like a person being told, “Stop working where you are used to work; there is a company where you can earn ten times more.” If he believes what he is told, he will certainly leave the job he was used to doing all the time and go work at the new place, since he will receive a higher return.
This is called Lo Lishma. However, from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma. Therefore, it is worthwhile to begin even in Lo Lishma, since in the end, he will come to Lishma. It is as Maimonides says, “Therefore, when teaching little ones, women, and uneducated people, it is in order to receive reward, until they gain knowledge.”
All this is because the body understands only the mother tongue. That is, if the first language that the mother speaks to it is the language of reception, meaning to work only for the will to receive for oneself, meaning to act only for its own benefit, and the language of bestowal is something new to it and it does not understand it, it is very difficult to learn this language. That is, understanding this language requires help from above, so as to be able to grasp this language of the desire to bestow.
It was said about this, “He who comes to purify is aided,” to understand this language. This is called “the generation of Babylon,” as it is written (Genesis 7:11), “They will not hear one another’s language.” In other words, when they were given work of bestowal, for each to work for one’s friend, the package soon fell apart.
That is, it is as it is written, “and they stopped building the city,” since when they were told that each one should work for his friend, they did not know this language, and no one wanted to work for another. Hence, they immediately “stopped building the city,” as they had no motivation to work for the sake of others.
For this reason, when the people of Israel were in exile in Egypt and were under the governance of Pharaoh, King of Metzar-Yam [Narrow Sea/Egypt], and wanted to emerge from his governance, they could not. It was still unclear to them what it means to work in order to bestow and not for one’s own sake. Although they wanted to work for the sake of the Creator, they saw that they could not. Yet, they always had excuses as to why they cannot aim in order to bestow, and they did not feel that they were so far from the Creator.
However, when Moses came to the people of Israel and spoke to the quality of Pharaoh in each and every one, meaning to the will to receive in their hearts, and told them that he wanted that the quality of Pharaoh in them will not dominate the quality of Israel in them, but that it will allow working for the sake of the Creator and not for the sake of the body, when the Pharaoh in the nation heard what Moses had told them—to work only for the sake of the Creator—they understood what it means to bestow and not receive and were promptly weakened in the work, since the body resisted with all its might so they would not perform any act of Kedusha.
In other words, even the Lo Lishma now became difficult for them to do. Before Moses came, they had strength to work because they still did not know what “for the sake of the Creator” meant. But when Moses came and explained to them what it means to bestow and not receive anything, the Pharaoh of each one started asking questions: 1) As it is written, Pharaoh asked, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” 2) Then came the wicked one’s question, who asked, “What is this work for you?”
It follows that once the people of Israel heard from Moses that they must work for the sake of the Creator, the real resistance of the evil in man began. This is the meaning of the words, “Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people.’” In other words, the body, which is called Pharaoh, began to resist the work.
It follows that Moses’ question was in order. That is, intellectually, we understand that if we observe the Torah and Mitzvot that the Creator commanded, the order should be that if we engage on the path of truth, the work should certainly be stronger, since we are marching on the path of truth, whereas Lo Lishma is not on the path of truth.
Hence, when Moses came to speak in the name of the Creator, the work should have been stronger, meaning to overcome the evil with the quality of truth. Yet, what did Moses see? It is written, “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people,” meaning the work to overcome the evil has become harder. In other words, not only did they not become better, meaning had more power to overcome the evil, but on the contrary, the evil gained more power.
Yet, the truth is that before we know what it means to do everything in order to bestow, the evil in man does not show its resistance all that much, since it is given a holding place while engaging in Torah and Mitzvot. Yet, when the body hears what it means to bestow upon the Creator and not receive anything for one’s own sake, meaning wanting to completely uproot the evil and not give it any grip on one’s Torah and Mitzvot, of course it resists with all its might and does not allow being cancelled.
It therefore follows that it is not that something new occurred in the evil. That is, it is not that now he received the evil, but that the evil that was in him had nothing to do and was virtually idle within him. But when a person wants to give all his actions to the Creator and not give anything to his body, called “will to receive for oneself,” it begins to show its strength and resists being overthrown from governance over the body.
It is written in The Zohar that the evil inclination in a man is called “a foolish old king.” It says, Why is it called “king”? Because it controls the body. And why is it called “old”? Because as soon as one is born, it is present in a person, whereas the good inclination comes to a person after thirteen years.
It therefore follows that as long as the evil is not revealed, there is still no one to cancel. But once its might has been exposed in full, it is possible to revoke it, since then, when he revokes it, he revokes it entirely. When the evil is not revealed, only a part of it can be cancelled, and this is not wholeness, since from above, when a person is given something, he is given a complete thing.
Otherwise, if one were to be given the power to be able to work for the sake of the Creator, if a bad part that has not been revealed remains in a person, it follows that a part that is bad and is still not revealed remains within a person and works with the intention for the sake of the Creator, and this is not considered wholeness. This is as our sages said (Sukkah 48), “Anyone who associates ‘for the sake of the Creator’ with another thing is uprooted from the world.”
We should interpret this in the work. This means that if a person observes Torah and Mitzvot for the sake of the Creator, but does part of the work also for the sake of the body, meaning that it will yield benefit to the body, too, he is uprooted from the world, meaning from the spiritual world, since everything must be for the sake of the Creator, and not at all for one’s own sake.
It follows that before the evil reveals its true form, it is impossible to give the person the power to uproot it, since he still does not have the measure of the bad that will give him the power to overcome, as it is known that there is no light without a Kli [vessel], meaning no filling without a lack.
According to the above, we can understand the Creator’s answer when He told him, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh.” We asked, it should have said Atah with an Aleph [meaning “you”], meaning that Moses would see that the Creator will do to Pharaoh. Why does it say Atah with an Ayin [meaning “now”]?
According to what we explained, it is impossible to give half a thing. Rather, first, the full evil must be disclosed, and then comes the help from above over a complete thing. Therefore, after Moses said, “Why have You brought harm to this people and did not save at all,” but rather the bad manifested in all its might, now is the time when the salvation will come from above. This is why He said, “now,” meaning that now you will see that I will give them the necessary help, as it is written, “For with a mighty hand he will send them, and with a mighty hand he will drive them out from his land.” For only now is it the time, since all the bad has been revealed in them.
Now we can understand why when Moses came as the Creator’s emissary, their situation grew worse. The reason is that this is not regarded that they grew worse, but that when Moses let them see what it means that they must work for the sake of the Creator, as it is written, “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name,” meaning that we must work for the sake of the Creator and the quality of Pharaoh must descend from its throne, there was room for the revelation of the evil.
It follows that by Moses explaining to them the meaning of working in order to bestow, they advanced in the work and achieved the degree of truth, to know how the bad controls them. Before Moses came to them as an emissary of the Creator, they did not know the truth—how far they were from the Creator. It follows that although in action, they grew worse, in truth, they advanced, for only now do they have Kelim [vessels] that the Creator can fill with His help, as our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.”
Now we can also understand the second question: Why specifically after they grew worse, the time came when the Creator gave the help. This was so because only now do they have Kelim that are ready to receive a complete thing. This is why it is written, “Now you will see” with an Ayin.
Concerning what we asked about what The Zohar says, that before their minister fell, the outcry of Israel was not heard, as it is written, “And the king of Egypt died,” and promptly, “And their cry went up unto God.” But until that time their outcry was not answered. We asked, 1) Who caused their minister to fall? 2) Why does their minister have the strength to detain their prayer?
We can understand this the way Baal HaSulam said, as is presented in the book A Sage’s Fruit (Part 1, p 103): “The thing is that to the extent that the children of Israel thought that Egypt were enslaving them and impeding them from worshipping the Creator, they truly were in the exile in Egypt. Hence, the redeemer’s only work was to reveal to them that there was no other force involved here, that ‘I and not a messenger,’ for there is no other force but Him. This was indeed the light of redemption.”
It follows that the exile is primarily that we think that there is a minister of Egypt, meaning that their minister is given authority and he governs Israel. When a person thinks so, their minister rules. When the people of Israel want to emerge from the governance of the minister of Egypt and see that they are asking the Creator to deliver them from his dominion but the Creator does not deliver them from exile and they are under his governance, then they say that the Creator does not hear their prayer.
The evidence of this is that He does not hear their outcry, since they see that they keep regressing instead of progressing. In other words, each time, they see that they are farther from the work of bestowal, since it makes sense that according to the work and toil that a person gives and prays to the Creator, He would deliver him from Pharaoh’s governance.
Yet, each day he sees the opposite. That is, each day, he sees that Pharaoh is ruling over him with more power, meaning he sees that he is more connected to the will to receive, and also more remote from the desire to bestow. For this reason, a person says that the Creator does not hear a prayer.
This is the meaning of what The Zohar says, that as long as their minister was given dominion over Israel, Israel’s outcry was not heard. This is considered that their minister detains the prayers of Israel. That is, the people of Israel say so; otherwise, why does the Creator not hear their outcry?
And what happens in the end, meaning after the full form of the evil has been revealed to them and they did not escape the campaign in the middle of the work? At that time they are rewarded with seeing the truth, that there is no minister of theirs here, who was detaining their prayers, but the Creator Himself did everything, as it is written, “for I have hardened his heart.” That is, the Creator made them see each time how far they were from Kedusha, meaning that the Creator revealed to them the bad “that I may set these signs of Mine.” Thus, specifically by revealing all the bad, the Creator can give them the help for a complete thing.
Accordingly, it means that when they were rewarded with seeing, “And the king of Egypt died,” which The Zohar calls “the fall of their minister,” this awareness, that they thought that there was a minister to Egypt and that he had authority and was detaining their outcry so it would not be heard above, that view has fallen from the people of Israel.
Instead, now they were rewarded with seeing that there was no minister to Egypt who detained the prayers of Israel from being accepted. Rather, the Creator did hear their prayer and the Creator hardened their hearts. That is, the Creator wanted the real form of evil, called “will to receive for oneself,” to be revealed.
It follows that He did hear their outcry. Were it not for the awakening from below of the people of Israel, who want to emerge from Egypt’s governance, meaning when they saw that all their work was in favor of the will to receive for themselves, called “Pharaoh king of Egypt,” without this awakening, the Creator would not reveal to them the form of the bad.
The Creator shows the form of the bad only to those who want to emerge from the governance of the bad. They think that they are growing worse each time, when in truth, it is common sense that everything in which we exert, we advance more or less, but we do not regress. The answer is that we are not regressing. Rather, we are advancing to the form of the truth of how much the bad can work within them. Then, when they have a complete Kli of evil, the Creator gives them the help, and then everyone sees that the Creator did hear the prayer the whole time.
According to the above, it is clear what they thought, that there is a minister of Egypt who detains the prayers. We asked, Why does this minister have the power to control the prayers of Israel? The answer is that this is what they thought.
The second question, Who caused their minister to fall from his authority? It is that they worked all the time and did not escape the campaign until there was room to reveal all the bad. Then, they were rewarded with the truth. Until then, there was also no minister here of theirs, but they thought so. It follows that two things came at once, which our sages call, “His divorce and his hand come as one.”
According to the above, we need great strengthening and not to escape the campaign, but to believe that “The Lord hears the prayer of every mouth,” and there is no other force in the world but only one force—that of the Creator, and He always hears everything that is turned to Him.