A Thought for Shabbos
The ship was sailing, a majestic beast of opulent luxury and indulgent pleasure whose passengers’ every whim and need was waited on by an army of men and women whose servitude to their travelling masters was legendary.
And then the Captain erred. Suddenly, his multitudes of passengers and staff weren’t free passengers; they were slaves to his consequence of error.
The signs said don’t go in that direction. But his instinct, and possibly – if the rumours are true – some of his most primal instincts, took him there.
The exact story is yet to be verified, if ever, but his tragic error was not only in the first moment of disaster.
There were signs early on and it was only long after the first lurch that the first order was given to evacuate ship, and by then, for too many, it was too late.
The transcripts of the conversation between the ill-fated Captain and the Commander who ultimately oversaw the, broadly speaking, successful evacuation, is a story that will be told for many years to come.
As the Commander demanded leadership from the Captain, one can almost hear the pained confusion in the voice of the stricken Captain.
He almost sounds like a victim, a slave, a slave to his own instinct.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the story; the Captain, his name was Pharaoh and the Commander, his name was Moses.
This week we read the story of Pharaoh’s ill-fated leadership meeting its tragic end as he brings untold death and destruction onto Egypt and ultimately acquiesces to the evacuation of Egypt, after it’s too late.
Reading the story of over last week and this week I was struck by the similarity of Pharaoh’s leadership, or lack thereof, and, not only Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia, but each of us in our own journey.
As many maps as there were on the Costa Concordia, as many signs Moshe showed, as much as we know the consequence of our decision, as creatures of habit we feel locked into the vicious cycle of our instincts.
It wasn’t just Pharaoh who was enslaved to his inner drive. The Jewish People themselves were locked into a cycle of slave mentality which restricted their ability to think of freedom and liberty.
They were stuck on his sinking ship and they needed help to get out.
And, from the dry land of the Sinai Desert, Commander Moses transmits G-d’s plan that begins to bring some order. He throws them a life raft, the chance to hold on to something firm that would bring them to the dry land of Exodus.
More than the process of the redemption being one of taking the Jewish People out of Egypt, it was taking the Egypt out of the People that presented the ultimate challenge. And it’s a process that never ends.
Every Shabbos, the Gift that Hashem told Moshe to give to the Jewish People, is to “remember that we left (and are still leaving) Egypt.”
Shabbos is a life boat in a world and life that seems like the Costa Concordia. It’s a miniature Exdous, or as one couple realized – a miniature life boat.
On some level, we each contain an element of Pharaoh in our own mind and heart, which resists redemption as much as the original progenitor. And like Captain Schettiono we resist taking charge and bringing order in to our life.
But thank G-d we have a Commander, the Torah and Torah Teachers in our life, whose orders give us, in the words of the successful recovery processes, a “Higher Power” to whom we can submit our instinct, and inspire us to move us forward.
In my life, the Rebbe is like a Moshe, a Commander bringing Hashem’s message, who, when even it’s my own actions that are drowning me, inspires a consistent path to higher purpose and freedom.
This Shabbos, leading up to Yud Shevat on Thursday, is a time for me to reflect on my Ship, my journey, and make sure that I’m following the voice of my commander.
That’s what every Shabbos is for, to stop for a moment and reflect on the words of Moshe, our Commander, and the words of Hashem’s Torah that he brings us. It’s what he, and his successors throughout time, transmit to us, even before we’ve hit the rock.
Wishing you a Shabbos of hearing your Commander,
Rabbi Asher Deren