Shemos: The Kobiyashi Maru

Yesterday, I told my kids in the morning that they probably will not be having friends, since we have a lot of clean up to do.

When a friend called my six year old later in the afternoon, I really wasn't sure what my wife wanted, so I told him to ask her.  She allowed it, so I took him.

On the way, he said, "We just learned that one of Chava's (Eve's) punishments is that Adam will have power over her… ", as he smiled and continued, "… but in OUR house, it's the opposite!"

It's hard to argue with that.  I guess that's proof that the first man and woman weren't Ashkanazim…

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the Egyptian exile, which begins in this week's parsha, was primarily spiritual in nature, which is certainly not how we think of it today.  He explains that the Jewish nation was so enslaved by the Egyptian consciousness, they had no ability to recognize Hashem's hand in their lives.  Their day-to-day existence was physical in nature without any spirituality.

This lack of awareness is the root cause of exile, as it's written "My people are exiled without awareness" (Yehayahu 5:13).  That is why, in the end, the exile was ended "with a bang".  It was Hashem in "full-force", where even Pharoah himself had to acknowledge that Hashem was running the world.

So too, says Rebbe Nachmun, each person has their own exile that they go through on a daily basis.  We become so engrossed in the physical world and our Yetzer Horah works to push any thoughts of Hashem out of our lives, every day we sink deeper and deeper into exile.

That is why so many of our mitzvos, throughout the week, remind us of the redemption from Egypt, whether in Tefillin, Kiddush, Shema, Mezuzah, etc… By constantly reminding ourselves that Hashem is ALWAYS there and everything that happens in our lives are from Hashem Himself, we slowly pull ourselves out of this personal exile.

Over the past month or so, for example, we've been embroiled with a certain organization that stole some money that was given to use to help one of our children.  I knew the money was lost, but I really wanted to see them stopped from doing so again.  However, they have "protexia" (Hebrew, obviously, for "protection") and there is nothing we can do.  I was really bothered by this and very hard to swallow.  Not that they are getting away with it, without punishment… that will come in time.  I couldn't put my finger on why it bothered me so much.  Then I realized, my problem lies in one of my favourite scenes in Star Trek II.  Yeah, believe it or not.

In the movie, there's a famous test, The Kobiyashi Maru.  It's a no-win test that cadets have to take to see how well they handle failure.  Basically, they're in command of a starship and receive a distress call from a disabled ship called the Kobiyashi Maru.  It's life-support is failing and the ship itself has drifted into the Neutral Zone.  If they go in to save it, the Klingons will have an excuse to go in and attack.  If they don't, 600 people will die.

Of course, only one cadet ever beat the test: James Kirk.  How?  Simple!  He reprogrammed the simulator.  When telling this story to one of his officers, they replied, "You cheated!"  And he replied, "I changed the conditions of the test… I don't believe in a no-win situation"

I think that got into my system a little too much.

There are times when bad things happen to us.  It's easier when it's not from a person.  When it's a person causing the pain, it's much harder to see Hashem.  We want revenge.  We want to stop them.  We want to stop them from hurting others.  And there are times when we are obligated to try to stop them.  I went to a rav about this and he told us that we needed to continue.  But, throughout the whole time, I had this seed in my head, "I don't like to lose", "If I only could change the conditions of the test".

But we can't think like that.  At a certain point, we need to realize, we cannot change any conditions.  This is how things are.  You are going to lose and suffer.

So what attitude DO we need?  Simple.  It came from Hashem.

What they do is what they do.  What will be with them is no longer our concern.  The fact that Hashem put them into our lives at that exact moment to do that exact thing is what concerns us.  They are merely instruments of Hashem, who have chosen their own path.  Sometimes Hashem does give us a Kobiyashi Maru, and no matter what, we're not going to win, because we're not supposed to.  However, the real test is, how do we handle it.

By constantly reminding ourselves that Hashem puts us in situations and takes out our of situations, we can pass such tests.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!