Parshat Shemot From Central East NCSY

Posted on July 21, 2008

Pharaoh decreed upon B’nei Yisroel that they would no longer be supplied with the necessary ingredients to make bricks. They would have to make gather all the materials for making the bricks themselves, then make the bricks, and then make the buildings (which according to the Midrash were assigned to be built on sand, from which upon completion they soon toppled over and required to be built again).

The question is: Why didn’t Pharaoh just double the quota as opposed to this method. That would ensure harder work for his slaves, and even more product for himself?

Pharaoh wasn’t really after any material gain for himself. He simply sought to break and destroy the Jewish people. We were enslaved with Avodas Perach, work the breaks a person. Pharaoh knew the truth that when one does meaningless work that just keeps one busy there is no pride in results, only torture.

There is a famous story of a prison labor camp. A man was forced to turn a crank for ten years straight.  He had no clue what the result of his work was; the shaft simply went up through the ceiling and he could never see where it went.  He spent his days dreaming of what he was doing. Positive thoughts got him through the ten years.  After ten years, when he went to see what he had been turning, he saw that there was nothing. He had been laboring for ten years for nothing! Because of the sorrow of that moment, he dropped dead.

Work can be fulfilling, prideful and exciting, but only if it has purpose. Purposeless work breaks a person’s spirit.

Imagine the outlook that the Gemara tells us the Babylonians had: work each day to earn your bread so that you can live another day, in which you will work to earn your bread.  What a meaningless, sad existence!

Those with Torah can never have any fear of such a plight. Those with Torah have the truest, most meaningful of all work.  Besides the pleasure and sense of fulfillment one will get out of learning Torah, the knowledge and appreciation of the share in Olam Haba (the world to come) that is waiting them gives complete, true meaning for all work in this world. May we all have the chance to truly appreciate Torah for the meaning that it puts into our own lives and the entire world.