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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The Great Divide

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

I was once a proud member of the Boy Scouts of America, we had a pack of frum boys who met in a local shul. The troop was run by my father. Once he announced that we were going to learn about ‘the great divide’. I had no idea what he was talking about but guessed it was to be something about a geographical feature of some kind. I was wrong. He got us to stand in two lines with one facing away from the other at about an arm’s length. The person people in the front line had to fall straight backwards and be caught by the person behind. Of course, despite knowing that the person behind wouldn’t let them fall, the fallers mostly couldn’t bring themselves to actually let themselves go. I certainly couldn’t. Then my father said ‘watch this’. He came and stood behind me and told me to fall backwards. I had no problem falling straight backwards into his arms.

The ‘great divide’, he told us, was between the mind and the heart. Despite what the mind knows, the emotions often don’t let us act in accordance with that knowledge. When my father stood behind me, since I fully trusted him on the emotional level and not just the intellectual level, I could fall with ease.

The Torah tells us that Moshe reasoned, if the Jewish people weren’t listening to him, how could he possibly expect Paroh to do so?

Rashi comments, based on Chazal, that this is one of the 10 kal va’chomers in the Torah ( a priori form of deductive Talmudic logic.).

The question is what exactly is the logic here?

The Torah says that the reason the Jewish people didn’t listen to Moshe was ‘mi’kotzer ruach u’me’avoda kasha’- ” Shortness of breath from hard labor.” If physical suffering was responsible for the people not being able to take on board Moshe’s message then there is a logical problem with the kal v’chomer since Paroh was not suffering any oppression and so there the ‘a priori’ argument falls down.

A better translation, however, is that kotzer ruach refers not to a physical symptom but to their spiritual wellbeing, they were in a state such that they could not emotionally take on board what their mind understood. The great divide.

So the logic is clear. Paroh was the ultimate example of the ‘great divide’. He knew full that the Egypt would be destroyed, he believed Moshe, yet time and again he acted otherwise.

When we put on our Tefilin we are a performing a symbolic act of connecting our minds to our hearts. We then wind it down to action.

In our lives we so often find that we know the right thing to do, the right way to live. But the great divide results in us choosing otherwise. May we be blessed with the strength and wisdom to break through the divide.

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