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Fire & Ice & a Lesson in Relationships

Friday, 16 January, 2015 - 1:27 am

032.jpgSaturday night’s after we make Havdalah and conclude the Shabbos, my children often enjoy the opportunity to make a fire in our fireplace. For firewood they simply step outside and get a small log from the backyard and look around with flashlights and collect some small twigs and branches. Sometimes in the winter the twigs that they collect have ice and snow on them, so it makes getting a fire started a little extra challenging. Typically we usually succeed and the snow and ice melt away and the twigs are eventually consumed by the dancing flames.  

Sometimes it takes a while but one thing we are always certain of, either the snow and ice will win or the flames and heat will win.

Once the fire is lit we sit around and enjoy a special Saturday evening meal together and occasionally enjoy a treat like a roasted Marshmallow. It’s the post Shabbos bonus cozy time and our kids love the extra special fun activities before we go back to the routine of another week.

Fire & Ice Working Together

In this week’s Torah portion we read about another story of ice and fire, except that this time the fire doesn’t melt the ice and the ice doesn’t extinguish the fire. The Medrash tells us that when the seventh plague of hail descended on Egypt, the hail wasn’t just ice, rather the hail was ice on the outside and fire on the inside. Together they made for a very destructive force as they rained down on Egypt, but remarkably in the process, the fire and the ice did not negate or destroy each other.

This would seem like a truly sublime detail of a technical aspect of one of the ten plagues, but if we look a little deeper, there is actually a more powerful message that can be taken from this.

Ice on the outside of the hail and fire on the inside of the hail, were not just random details, rather they were a reflection of the attitudes and actions of the Egyptians that were part of the root causes of their behavior.  One of the spiritual flaws of the Egyptians behaviors was their never ending obsession and over glorification of their own lusts and self. They were on a never ending pursuit of fulfilling their lusts and temptations and had a burning and raging passion for anything that would help them achieve those goals.  

This fire was what raged on their insides, it was what became their drive for survival, and it itself became the center point of their ambitions.

Yet on the outside of their burning lust, was a frosty and frozen veneer that reflected an attitude of contempt and even cruelty to the fate of their fellow man. Their actions and choices were completely cold and cool to the idea that spiritual values and care for others have a place at the center of man’s life and instead reflected the very opposite of that.

The raging fire of lust and self-gratification that burned in their hearts was not disconnected from their frozen exterior and cold attitudes towards their fellow man. In fact, it was precisely this drive that was the root cause and primary reason for their frosty and cold behavior to anything spiritual.  

Healthy Self & Healthy Relationships

Our attitudes to others and our drive for our own lusts and desires are not two disconnected realms, rather they are intertwined and connected in a very deep manner. Working on having a healthier spiritual inner space and set of values, can only better and improve our relationships and interactions with others.

G-d wanted to send a message to the Egyptians and also a long term message to all of us, misplaced lust leads to frosty and colder relationships, yet a healthy spiritual self, leads to stronger relationships and better friendships.

We are all human, and desires and physical pleasures are a normal part of how we live our lives. The Torah is not suggesting an approach of abstinence, rather it is advocating creating a healthy and wholesome spiritual inner space, that will serve as our guiding force for our values and how we live our lives.  Working on achieving this, will provide meaning, balance and healthy tools for how we enjoy the beautiful world that we are in, while at the same time allowing us to grow, thrive and lead productive and meaningful relationships with others.

Good Shabbos


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