In the 1950s, there was a Reform Rabbi who carried on an extended correspondence with the Rebbe and would visit him from time to time. Once he told the Rebbe, “I envy the peaceful happiness and calm that radiates from the faces of your followers. I feel, however, it stems from naiveté. Were they exposed to the world and its challenges, it would be different.”

The Rebbe replied: “They are not naive. They’re simply not living a dichotomy.”

People at large feel torn between who they are and whothey would like to be; their morals and their actual conduct. The Rebbe was telling his questioner that his followers do not face such a split. Chassidism gives them a wholesome approach to life that empowers them to be at peace with themselves and live the values they profess. The result is the inner joy and tranquility that his questioner envied.

Parshas Beshallach

The beginning of this week’s Torah reading: “When Pharaoh sent out the nation....” invites several questions: Why is Pharaoh mentioned as the active agent of the Exodus? Until this time, he was the one preventing the Jews from leaving Egypt. Why is he suddenly given credit for sending them out?

The resolution of these questions focuses on an issue of greater scope: Why does G‑d create Pharaohs to begin with? Surely, the excessive wickedness and cruelty Pharaoh displayed was his own choice. G‑d did not create him inhumane, nor did He compel him to oppress the Jews. But G‑d gave him the opportunity as well as the tendency to do so. If G‑d did not want that to happen, He should have created Pharaoh differently, or not have created him at all.

Some explain that this is simply the way the world is. The world has Pharaohs. Not everything we see is a rose garden.

But that runs contrary to the very core of our faith. There can’t be anything in this world that G‑d doesn’t want, for He created the world from absolute nothingness. There isn’t anything that He was forced to allow in the world. So whatever exists, exists because He chose for it to exist.

So why does He make Pharaohs?

The ultimate answer is: So Pharaoh can send the Jews out of Egypt.

Pharaoh is not intended to be evil or malicious. Instead, Pharaoh exists to help the Jews reach Redemption. But there are some entities that express their positive intent at the outset and others like Pharaoh that require effort and even transformation before their positive qualities come to the surface.

There is nothing in G‑d’s world that wasn’t created for the good. He is good, and He can’t make anything that is not good.

But it is not always apparent that everything that He makes is good, and in those situations, He invites the Jewish people to work together with Him to bring that good to the surface. He will do His part, but there has to be an agent here on earth to serve as His representative and endeavor to further His purpose. That is the role He gave the Jewish people: to confront Pharaoh and others like him and bring out the good that G‑d invested in them.

It is not always easy, because when you deal with Pharaohs, you can get hurt. But what comes as an end result is the satisfaction of being G‑d’s partner in creation — i.e., that you did your part in helping G‑d’s vision of an ideal world become a reality.

Moreover, there is much more involved than just satisfaction. Pharaoh ultimately sends out the Jews and becomes the active agent for the redemption because that is what he is created for. He may balk, protest, and fight, but he will eventually fulfill his purpose, because he has no choice than to do that for which he was created. It is similar with regard to a Jew. He may not appreciate the fact that he was chosen to serve as G‑d’s agent to be “a light unto the nations.” He might prefer an easier, less challenging task. He must, however, realize that this is why he was created. And if this is his purpose, it is through the realization of that purpose that he will find fulfillment.

Looking to the Horizon

Our efforts to refine Pharaoh and others like him are also future oriented. One of the prophecies that Maimonides quotes with regard to the Redemption is: “I will make the nations pure of speech so that they will all call upon the name of G‑d and serve Him with one purpose.” And he continues stating “In that era, the occupation of the entire world, [i.e., non-Jews as well as Jews,] will be solely to know G‑d.”

For the Redemption will not involve solely the Jewish people. It would be ludicrous to think that as an advent to a perfect world, G‑d would eliminate a billion Asians. Instead, the intent is that the revelation of G‑dliness that will permeate that era will be appreciated by all mankind.

In anticipation of this revelation, efforts must also be made to refine the conduct of all nations, not only the Jewish people. In that light, it is significant that directly before describing the Future Redemption, Maimonides speaks of the Seven Universal Laws commanded to Noah and his descendants. Implied is that the awareness and the practice of these universal laws will hasten the coming of the Redemption. For the Torah is not only a guide for the Jewish people, but rather serves as a signpostfor all mankind, showing humanity as a whole a path to a more meaningful and purposeful existence.