Va'eira: Integrity as the Key to Geulah


Integrity is a basic value to which our Sages attached great value, even referring to it as m’yesodei hanefesh, a foundation of the soul (Shaarei Teshuva 3:184). Our parsha demonstrates that it is also the foundation of our national destiny.

Why were we redeemed from Egypt? Why should one group of oppressed slaves be singled out for miraculous redemption? As our Parsha makes clear (Shemos 6:4-5), it is only because G-d keeps His word. “I established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan… I heard the cries of the Jewish people whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I remembered My covenant.” As Rashi further underscores, G-d was telling Moshe that as long as the promise He had made to the Jewish people remained unfulfilled, He was not measuring up to His own signature quality of truth. G-d’s integrity, His commitment to keep His word, is the key to the fulfillment of the destiny of our people.

Yet, it may be our integrity that is no less key to that fulfillment. G-d moved forward to fulfill His promise to Klal Yisrael only after Moshe expressed his own frustration that since he had embarked on his mission to redeem the Jewish people things had actually gone from bad to worse. Moshe felt compelled to live up to the promise that he himself had made to the Jewish people and in doing so, arouses G-d to fulfill His own promise. Our commitment to keep our word will move G-d to keep His.

This may shed light on a classic Talmudic passage (Sotah 49b) that describes the period of history known as ikvesa d’meshicha, a pre-Messianic period when one can already hear the redemption’s approaching footsteps. This period is characterized by serious moral failings, including the absence of truth, ha’emes ne’ederes. Evidently, our lack of integrity delays redemption and the fulfillment of our destiny.

In 13th Century Spain, Rav Moshe of Coucy (Sefer Mitzvos Gadol, Positive Mitzvah no. 74) offered an even more basic and sobering reason for our failures of integrity to delay redemption. His words are critical and relevant and should inform our own communal values and perspective.

I have exhorted the exiles of Yerushalayim found in Spain and other Western nations that as we experience this prolonged period of exile, it is incumbent upon us to discard the empty values of the world and to instead firmly uphold G-d’s signature attribute of truth. They must not lie to either Jew or non-Jew nor mislead them in any way even when technically justified, as it is written (Tzefanya 3:13): “The remnant of the Jewish people shall neither commit injustice nor speak lies; deceitful speech will not come from their mouths.” If they behave in this way then when G-d will come to redeem them, the nations will recognize why they are deserving of Him doing so, as they are a people of truth who share a Torah of truth. If, however, they interact with non-Jews deceitfully, the nations will instead say: “Have you seen what G-d has done, making thieves and swindlers His chosen?!” … G-d dispersed us in our exile to attract converts to our belief system, but who would be attracted to us if we are dishonest in our dealings with them?!”  

We can and must  stand strong in making honesty and integrity the foundation of our individual lives and communal values, serving as an example to the world and opening the door to G-d fulfilling for us every one of His magnificent promise of redemption.