Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Goin' Where The Climate Suits My Clothes ("Going Down The Road Feeling Bad" - Traditonal Folk Song)

With my wife’s birthday around the corner and our 18-year-old daughter in Israel, I came up with the perfect gift. I sent her to Israel to visit our daughter. As excited as she was to go to Israel and to see our daughter; I think she was just as happy to be out of the snowy wintry cold that has gripped Toronto. As her flight date approached, I would have thought that her excitement and anticipation would have increased. Instead the anxiety of “what to pack” replaced some of that excitement. Over the years, when I watched her go through the internal debates on the merits of which skirts, which dresses and what sweaters to bring, I used to grow impatient and aggravated. Perhaps packing clothing is fundamentally easier for me. I focus on the reason for wearing the clothes. I don’t focus upon whether or not I like a particular article of clothing or anticipate a desire to wear a specific article of clothing. So this time as my wife’s anxiety increased, I just attempted to disengage. Amazingly enough, the stress of her packing remained essentially confined to my wife. The stress and the anxiety didn’t spread to me or the kids. If she asked me if something fit, I answered. When she needed me to bring down her suitcase, I did. When she needed me to help with laundry, I did. Because I essentially stayed away from her packing the suitcase, I didn’t have to experience her concerns about what to pack.
 This Shabbat, we read from Parshah Tetzaveh, and in it, we learn about the uniform of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Just like last week’s Parshah was a series of instructions on the way in which a physical space becomes beautified and holy, Parshah Tetzaveh offers a series of instructions on the way in which a certain individual’s physical appearance is beautified, and glorious. From head to toe, we are told that each item of the Kohen Gadol’s priestly uniform is made of fine linen, valuable stones, gold, cotton silk turquoise wool to name just a few of the ingredients. Certainly, we could understand the Parshah from a superficial perspective but to do so would be to misunderstand a deeper and perhaps more powerful message. We live in a society where “clothes make the man”, clothes define who and what we are. However, Parshah Tetzaveh teaches us something radically different. Instead of clothing making us look sharper, slimmer, better proportioned, what if clothes could express our intelligence, our emotional health, our sense of decency, the holiness that exists within our soul and the degree to which that holiness is expressed. What would such clothes look like? Such clothes would have to express the degree to which we have permitted God into our lives. Such clothes would have to express the holy magnificence of God’s presence within our lives.
                The Torah is very clear as to the reason for such highly decorative, highly ornate clothing. V’Kidashti et Ohel Mo’Ed v’Et Ha’Mizbeach V’Et Aharon v’Et Banav Akadesh L’Chahen Li – I shall sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the Altar; and Aaron and his sons shall I sanctify to minister to Me V’Shachanti B’Toch Bnai Yisroel V’Hayiti Lahem L’Elohim I shall rest My Presence among the Children of Israel , and I shall be their God (Ex. 29:44-45). God’s presence will make the Tent of the Meeting holy. In other words, God’s presence will make a particular space holy.   Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (15/16th Century Italy) explains that God rests among us in order to accept with favor our prayers and service. However, God resting his Presence is not enough. The Kohanim and ultimately the rest of us need to recognize that this is our God and we need to act appropriately. We can never take God’s proximity for granted. Therefore Aaron and his son’s, serving on behalf of the people, must achieve a higher degree of holiness compared to the rest of the people. This higher level of holiness must exist both inside and outside. Any inconsistency renders the Kohen Gadol impure. If the clothes become physically dirty, then he is momentarily impure. If his heart wanders, if his mind is elsewhere, or if he has not completely given of himself to the service to God on our behalf, then he is momentarily impure as well.
 Judaism strives to create opportunities where the physical world seamlessly connects to the spiritual world. In the realm of time; Shabbat is a designated day when the physical seamlessly knits together with the spiritual world.  However, even in the course of a regular day, we can wear our spiritual clothing: prayer, Kashrut, study, and simple acts of kindness (Gemilut Chasadim) and make sure that these spiritual clothes match our external clothes. Sometimes it is very easy to lose sight of what matters. Frequently we focus on the outside.  As my wife was almost finished packing, she asked me about an article of clothing. I smiled before I responded and she answered herself. Her answer stunned me. She explained that she wouldn’t take that particular article of clothing because she was going to Israel to visit her daughter and spend time with her. Nothing else really mattered. With that answer, there was no more anxiety and we all were excited for her birthday journey to Israel.

Rav Yitz

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Light The Song With Sense And Color, Hold Away Despair (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Terrapin Station")

Recently, our son shared a news report regarding the allied effort in Afghanistan, peace talks with the Taliban, and an eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan.  While no one in our family is an Afghan, fought in Afghanistan or has any remote connection to Afghanistan, our son followed the story very closely. Why was he so concerned with the news in Afghanistan? Our grade nine son participates in Model U.N. He is on the delegation representing, of all places, Afghanistan. In the course of his preparation, he has become the family expert on Afghanistan.  Trust me when I say that while I could find Afghanistan on a map, I never cared one wit for Afghanistan, nor did I ever give much thought to the human cost except in terms of soldiers who tried to offer safety and stability amid such turmoil and chaos.  My jaw dropped as I sat and listened to our son offer this assessment. He was not only speaking about Afghanistan, but he advocated for the innocent and was visibly concerned for those whose lives were at risk living under the Taliban, and the innocent lives at risk if allied forces leave. He spoke thoughtfully, passionately and logically. He was upset as he made his assessment and incredibly empathetic as he advocated for the people of Afghanistan.  Needless to say, I have no authority with the Model U.N. for the real U.N.  However, I saw our son in a whole new light, and I wasn’t sure how to respond.
This week’s Parshah is Terumah. Terumah means “a portion”. In the context of this week’s Parsha, the portion in question is the portion of wealth that B’nai Yisroel would dedicate to the construction of the Aron, the ark that would hold the Luchot Habrit (the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written), the lamp, the table, and the material for the Ohel Moed (the tent of the meeting). All of which comprised the Mishkan or the Tabernacle. If you are in construction, interior design, or architecture, the details in Parsha Terumah are fascinating; and if you’re not then all those details might seem a bit dry. Whether a fan or not, whether an architect or not, there are certain objects, the construction of which is nothing less than miraculous and perhaps more allegorical than literal in meaning. However what is not allegorical but rather spiritually re-assuring given the myriad of laws that we have read from Yitro and Mishpatim is the goodness and kindness in the human soul.
There are two moments in the Parsha that stand in stark contrast to assumptions about human nature from Parsha Mishpatim. In the previous Parsha, when we read about the prohibition of accepting bribes, perverting justice, selling servants to third parties rather than returning to them to their original owner;  we understand that there is an assumption that human nature is not so wonderful. In fact, one could argue that we are supposed to rise above human nature, rise above our animal-like inclination, Yetzer HaRah (the evil inclination), and be better. So when we read that God wants to live among Bnai Yisroel: V’Asu Li Mikdash  V’Shachanti B’Tocham; a Godly aspect would only do so if the dwelling, if the people’s behavior merited God’s presence.  Certainly, the physical qualities of the structure would be impressive but more important is the fact that Shechinah would dwell among Bnai Yisroel as long as they did not succumb to human nature. Not succumbing to human nature became evident immediately. Before the construction, before the blueprints, Bnai Yisroel already operated above human nature. They contributed materials Kol Ish Asher Yidvenu Libo‘every man whose heart motivates him’ (Ex.25:1). Contributions were based upon the most divine aspect of their souls. Every aspect of the process focused upon that part of the human soul that was beyond human nature. That divine aspect merited God’s presence in the camp. That divine aspect galvanized a community and figured out how to serve God in a way that appealed to the best of humanity.
I finally figured out the words that might bring comfort to our son as he could only see darkness, evil, and awful way in which people in that part of the world have been treating each other for decades if not centuries. I tried to remind him that although that part of the world is pretty dim and risks becoming quite dark if allied forces leave; there is some light in the world. Just like the Aron is encased in gold both on the inside and outside and just like people contributed selflessly rather than selfishly; I was reminded that the world has a lot of beauty. I told our son that despite what he heard on the news and despite my agreeing with his thoughtful assessment as an Afghan U.N. delegate; he needed to be able to accomplish one very important task. He needs to be able to communicate some of the beauty of the country and/or the people he represents. Maybe he needs to look a bit closer in order to find the beauty rather than ugliness, but it is there. If he is able to communicate that; the other delegates in the Model U.N. will surely be supportive of anything he requests.  I reminded him that he should always work hard and search for the beauty in spite of the all the ugly he will encounter. Sharing that process can be incredibly inspiring and ultimately quite empowering.

Rav Yitz

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Stranger Ones Have Come By Here, Before They Flew Away (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "China Doll")

One of my politically astute children commented that the recent 35 day U.S. government shutdown was a result of Trump, Stephen Miller, Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter’s fear of strangers. According to these politically astute children, the intention of Trump’s wall seems to keep people who don’t look like Trump, Miller, Coulter or Limbaugh nor speak English like Trump, Miller Coulter or Limbaugh out of the U.S. Certainly,  building a wall would be the fulfillment of a Trump campaign promise. Originally, however, he promised that Mexico would pay for the wall. After listening to these politically astute children, I did a little checking about this “wall business” and these “caravans” along the Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California border, and all the drugs, terrorist, and mayhem. I also did some checking about the border between Canada and the U.S. Guess what I found out? The border between the U.S. and Canada is far more open and porous than the Southern Border. The border between between Canada and the U.S. is much longer and has far less Immigration officers monitoring the border than the US Mexico border. My politically astute children reminded me that according to Trump, Canadians go to the U.S. to shop for sneakers (a Trump Tweet); Mexicans and South Americans bring drugs, MS13 and all the unwanted souls from these other countries. Interestingly enough over the past several years the U.S. Department of Immigration indicated that there has been more people leaving the U.S. and heading into Mexico. Immigration Canada statistics indicate that there has been nearly four times as many illegal border crossing attempts into Canada than U.S. So why does the President focus so much on the Mexican Border and Canadian border?  My politically astute child said the reason was as clear as a beautiful sunny clear Canadian winter’s day? The president perceives that Canadians come from the same Western and Northern European stock  as Americans.  For Trump, Stephen Miller, Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and 44% of Americans who support “the Wall”, the people trying to cross the Southern border are truly strangers. They don’t look like Trump, Miller, Coulter, Limbaugh and the 44% nor do they sound like Trump, Miller, Coulter, Limbaugh and the 44%.
In this week's Parsha, we read from Mishpatim. Moshe is still at Mt. Sinai. However the revelation synanomous with the Aseret Dibrot (Ten Commandments) has come and gone. Instead, God proceeds to present  to Moshe the numerous  mundane laws that affect daily human interaction. There is no shofar blowing nor is there an anticipation of encountering God at the mountain. Rather, there is only God telling Moshe how to decide various legal matters including the damages to be paid if an ox owned by one person gores the ox owned by another person. Or two men are fighting near a pregnant woman and she gets hurt, how does Moshe determine liability/guilt?  How  does one treat a Jewish servant, how are festivals to be observed?, What are the liabilities involved for a person asked to safeguard another’s property? What is the punishment for accidental death or manslaughter?These are just a few of the fifty three commandments (according to the Sefer HaChinuch).  Moshe transmits these laws to B’nai Yisroel and they respond with the words Naaseh v’Nishmah we will do and learn.  The Parsha concludes with a glowing fire upon the mountain that Moshe ascends once again.
Following the awe inspiring revelation at Sinai in Parsha Yitro, it might seem like a spiritual let down as we read of one law after another. After the revelation of e Ten Commandments, listening to the rules and regulations that govern human interaction might seem tedious. However, buried beneath these rules and regulations is the most sacred of reminders regarding the foundations upon which these executive orders are based.  V’Ger Lo Toneh  V’Lo TilChatzenu Ki Geirim Heyitem B’Eretz Mitzrayim You shall not taunt or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. The Talmudic Sages in Baba Metzia 59b reminds us that the Torah cautions us regarding our treatment of the stranger no less than thirty six times. No other “executive order”, no other commandment, loving God, Shabbat, circumcision, forbidden foods, uttering a falsehood occurs as frequently  as "loving the stranger" or "refrain from oppressing the stranger".  The Talmudic sages understand this commandment in terms of the “stranger” (the idol worshipper turned proselyte). When the “stranger” ceases worshipping idols and begins the process of Torah study; no one oppresses, mocks or demeans his origins. Later Medieval commentators explain that the “stranger” is not only an idol worshipper turned proselyte, in other words, the spiritually defenseless. The “stranger” is the economically defenseless as well. RaShBam (11th Century French commentator and Rashi’s nephew) clarifies “Do not oppress him” as  do his work since he has no champion. RaMBaM, the great Spanish commentator, adds a caveat to RaShBam. God defends the defenseless. God protects the widows and the orphans. In the previous Parsha, God reminded Moshe to tell B’nai Yisroel that they were to be a Nation of Priests, that is to say, B’nai Yisroel is supposed embody Godliness here on earth. Caring for the stranger embodies Godliness. Failure to care for the stranger embodies the Egyptian behaviour. 
As we continued talking about the wall, we put ourselves in the shoes of th44%. My politcally astute childrent reminded us that it is human nature to fear the “other” to fear the “stranger”, to fear those who look different and sound different. Human nature has on full display in the White House. Yet Torah, Judeo-Christian morality, liberal democracy and the values with which we raise our children seems to appeal to something that transcends human nature. Instead, we are supposed to strive for something greater than human nature. We are supposed to transcend our fear of the stranger. We are supposed to transcend our trepidation of the “other”. We are supposed to be able to empathize with the stranger. After all, at some point in our history, we were all strangers. For the recently freed slaves standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Parsha Mishpatim explained how to create a civil, just, caring and humane society predicated upon law, trust, the sanctity of the human soul, and the necessity for empathy. I am willing to bet that no one has told Trump, Stephen Miller, Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and many of the 44% that their respective ancestors who arrived in the New World wanting to build a new life were strangers also.  

Rav Yitz

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I'll Call Down Thunder And Speak The Same And My Words Fills The Sky With Flame (John Barlow & Bob Weir - "Estimated Prophet"

Some fathers are so consumed with their own definition of happiness; they assume their children have adopted the same definition of joy and happiness. For the father that makes such an assumption, finding a spouse  for  his child is, in a sense, quite simple. Since the father knows what makes his child happy; he merely needs to dictate to the future daughter/son-in-law the type of job, lifestyle and life choices to be decided. However, there are some fathers who are less consumed with their own definition of happiness and more concerned about the the child's happiness. Such a father won't dictate anything to the daughter/son in law. Instead, the father will be sure to empower future in-law children and permitting them to determine happiness for themselves. This week, father’s in-law took on prominent roles in our home. Two fathers in-law appeared on the Israeli television show Shtizel that streams on Netflix. Shulem Shtizel, the 60 something Rosh Yeshiva is a widower, a father of three, grandfather, and a father in-law.  Shulem certainly did not approve of his daughter's choice for a spouse, a man named Lipa. When Lipa violates the marriage, Shulem could have tried to break up a dysfunctional marriage. He doesn’t seek to break up the marriage and he doesn’t focus upon his feelings. Rather he focuses upon his grandchildrens' welfare and happiness and his daughter and son in laws' welfare and happiness. Shulem also has a younger brother, Nachum. Nachum has one daughter who is engaged. Nachum’s betrothed son in law is Shulem Shtizel’s youngest son Kiva. (Yes, the first cousins are betrothed). When Nachum’s daughter states that she wants to marry her cousin, Shulem youngest son, her father Nachum thinks that his daughter’s happiness is her father’s version of happiness. So Nachum confronts the 28-year-old never married artist and tells him no painting, no art career, praying with a quorum only in a synagogue, no hanging around his friends, work in a 9-5 job and remain in Jerusalem. Needless to say, because Shulem didn’t throw his weight around; Shulem’s son-in-law, Lipa has gotten his life in order, saved his marriage and avoided potential estrangement from his 15-year-old daughter. Because Nachum chose to throw his weight around, he practically destroyed the spirit of his son in law whose only response was to break off the engagement.
            In this week’s Parsha, Yitro, we read two distinct narratives. In the first half of the Parsha, Moshe brings B’nai Yisroel to Midian. While there, Moshe spends a little time with his wife, his two sons and his father-in-law Yitro. Yitro acknowledges that G-d has been protective of B’nai Yisroel and that the Lord is greater than all other gods. The next day, Yitro sees Moshe sitting from morning to night mediating all problems that arise between individuals within the community. Yitro sees that his son-in-law is overextended and the current method of governing is neither good for him or Amchah. Being both a Priest of Midian as well as his father-in-law, Yitro offers advice as a father as well as a community leader. The second part of the Parshah, from chapter 19 through 20, tells of B’nai Yisroel’s revelation at Sinai.  The Parshah concludes with God’s declaration of the Aseret Dibrot, the Ten Commandments. The second part of the Parshah is very well known, incredibly unclear, and lends itself to numerous interpretations, commentaries, and Midrashim.  However, the two stories seem so disparate; it seems odd that both appear together in the same Parshah.  So, what is the connection between Yitro’s advice and Revelation at Sinai?
First, we must understand Yitro’s advice. Yitro suggests to Moshe “You be a representative of God, and you convey the matters to God…you shall make known to them the path in which they should go and deeds they should do. You shall discern from among the entire people, men of accomplishment, men of truth, men who despise money. You shall appoint them as leaders of thousands…they shall judge the people at all times, and they shall bring every major matter to you, and every minor matter they shall judge, and it will be eased for you, and they shall bear with you. If you do this thing and God shall command you, then you will be able to endure, and this entire people, as well, should arrive at its destination in peace.” (Ex. 18:19-23) Yitro explains to Moshe that a community must have a shared vision. To some degree, people need to know how to seek G-d on their own, and how to behave within a community. Others need to know G-d’s ways in order to inform those who need advice and adjudication. Everyone must have access to G-d and G-d’s teaching. Only then will Moshe’s load be lightened enough to bear. Then B'nai Yisroel will have a stake in the relationship with G-d. Only then will Moshe and B’nai Yisroel arrive at its destination, in peace. Only then will Moshe and B’nai Yisroel become willing participants in their covenant with G-d. Only then will the community be able to attempt to uphold their role as a “priest to the nations”. 
After Moshe heeded his father in-law’s advice, we read the second half of the Parshah, the Revelation at Sinai. Throughout this narrative, the focus is on the people, and Moshe’s ascending and descending the mountain. G-d’s instructs the Amcha, “the people” to prepare for Revelation. Three times God tells Moshe to inform B’nai Yisroel of everything that transpired between them. Moshe connects “the people” to G-d. Three days, B’nai Yisroel prepared for their “destination”. The “entire people” was in the camp, and they shuddered. Then Moshe brought the people from the camp toward God. (Ex 19:16-17). When presented with God’s covenant, the entire people responded together and said, ‘everything that God has spoken we will do!’”(Ex 19:8) The narrative continually emphasizes that Revelation was not solely between God and Moshe. If it were, then Moshe’s role as teacher, prophet, and adjudicator of law would be overwhelming. No, Bnai Yisroel must be involved in the process. B’nai Yisroel must experience some aspect of Revelation. B’nai Yisroel must be active participants in Revelation. They were. The same for the sons in law: Kiva, Lipa and Moshe. They must be involved in the process rather than be dictated to and emasculated by the father in law. Yitro understood this and Shulem Shtizel understood it as well. I hope that someday, if and when I become a father in law, I understand it as well.  

Rav Yitz

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bite The Hand, Bite The Hand That Bakes Your Bread (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Foolish Heart")

One of my most favorite moments as a parent occurs when modern life offers the same self- evident truths that our ancestors understood centuries before. Among the more ignorant comments made recently came from President Trump’s son Don Jr. when compared his father’s border wall to zoo fence that prevents animals from leave their designated areas. Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist appeared and on CNN’s "Cuomo Prime Time" on January 10th. She proceeded to offer her insight into Don Jr.’s recent troubling and perhaps controversial remark as another attempt to hold on to the fame of his father and have some level of relevancy. “This is an entitled, rich, spoiled little brat whose only call to fame is being his daddy’s son, who hasn’t built anything of his own, who hasn’t done anything of his own,” she said. Rabbi Levi, in the Midrash Tanchuma also talks about a spoiled brat: “A child is riding on his father’s shoulders. When the child sees something he wants, he asks for it. His father gets it for him. This happens again and again. They encounter a person approaching from the opposite direction, and the child asks the stranger, ‘Have you seen my father?’ The father responds incredulously, “You ride on my shoulders and everything you want I get you, yet you ask, ‘Have you seen my father?’ The father then takes the child down from his shoulders and a dog comes and bites the child.”
This week’s Parshah, Beshalach, is also known as Shabbat Shira (Shabbat of Song). Bnai Yisroel leaves Egypt. Pharaoh, realizing what he has done, gives chase with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. Trapped by the Sea, Bnai Yisroel looks to Moshe for an answer. Moshe prays and God tells Moshe to take Israel and start walking through the Yam Suf.  So as they begin walking into the Yam Suf; it splits and Bnai Yisroel arrives safely on the other side. Meanwhile, the Egyptian army is trapped in the water as the sea closes upon them.  B’nai Yisroel sings throughout this Parshah. Upon successfully completing their crossing of the Yam Suf, the headline song begins (Ex. 15:1): Oz Yashir Moshe u’Vnai Yisroel et Ha Shira Ha’zot L’adonai va’Yomru Leimor Then Moses and the Children of Israel chose to sing this song to God and they said the following. In this song, B’nai Yisroel praises God as protector of his people. After the song, Miriam, Moshe’s sister, tells the women “Shiru L’adonai Ki Ga’oh Ga’Ah Sus v’Rochvo Ramah Va’Yam Sing to God for he is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea. Ex.15:21 When tradition referred to this Shabbat as Shabbat Shirah, clearly this is what was meant: singing the praises of God’s awesome power and majesty.
However immediately following these songs of praise, B’nai Yisroel begins another kind of singing. Instead of songs of joy and praise, known as singing, there are songs of discontent and complaint, known as whining. No sooner does B’nai Yisroel cross the Yam Suf and sing Oz Yashir Moshe, then they complain about the lack of good water. Moshe puts a tree into the water and it becomes sweet (15:25-26). They whine about the lack of food. God provides the manna from Heaven (16:6-8,16-36). They complain about the lack of meat. God provides them with quail (16:13). They complained about the lack of water upon their arrival in Rephidim. Moshe strikes a rock as God instructs, and provides water for the people. They wanted it now. So God gave it “now”.
B’nai Yisroel lacks faith. They are still slaves. They live passively. They ceased struggling for freedom. They performed their tasks and returned to their slaves’ quarters and ate their slave food that the master provided. There is no sense of responsibility for the future. There is no sense that improvement is possible. The slave looked to the master to take care of everything. Upon leaving Egypt and crossing the Yam Suf, B’nai Yisroel looks to God to take care of everything. They have no sense of taking take care of themselves. So they sang or whined, “But Daddy we want the water and meat and we want it now!” God gave them another miracle. Like the impudent boy who asked the stranger if he had seen his father, while all the while sitting upon his father’s shoulders; B’nai Yisroel demonstrates the same impudence. Hayeish Adonai B’kirbeinu Im Ayin? “Is God among us or not?” The father put the boy upon the ground. God put B’nai Yisroel upon the ground. Just like the dog bit the boy, Amalek attacks. B’nai Yisroel.  B’nai Yisroel stopped whining. They finally do for themselves.  Moshe said to Joshua, ‘Choose people for us and go do battle with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand’. Joshua did as Moshe said to him, to do battle with Amalek” (Ex.17:9-10). B’nai Yisroel fought, God gave them strength. This is the first time in the Parshah where we read that B’nai Yisroel acted first. God helped them when they helped themselves.
So what do we learn from B’nai Yisroel’s behavior at the beginning of the Parshah and the end of the Parshah. We learn that in order to have faith in God, we must have faith in ourselves. Before we seek God’s help, we must help ourselves. The spoiled brat is the child who won’t do for his/herself. The spoiled brat expects others to do for him. Instead of trusting in and doing for itself first, B’nai Yisroel relied upon God to do for them. Thank God, we are no longer slaves in Egypt, yet we remain slaves. We are slaves to our fears, we are slaves to our anxieties, and we are slaves to our own passivity. It is always easier to be passive, do nothing, be uninvolved, and not improve the world around us. The first step in freedom is conquering our own passivity, and doing for ourselves. Only when we take that first step will we feel the support and strength that God offers us. Then we can conquer Amalek. Then we conquer our own fears. Then improvement is possible for both the individual and the community.  Most importantly, we eventually stop whining.
Rav Yitz