At the end of the portion Shemot, there’s a very unique moment where it seems that Moses is complaining, asking, “Why have you done negative things to the Israelites?” And then the following portion, Va’era, begins with the Creator telling Moses it is going to work out. The Creator sends Moses to the Israelites to awaken them to an understanding that the Redemption, the end of their suffering, is going to come. However, it says that the Israelites did not listen to Moses. So, the question is, what was Moses trying to accomplish? What was he trying to awaken within the Israelites?
To understand this, there's a famous story most of us have heard about the murder of Rav Akiva, the great kabbalist and teacher. It says in the Talmud that when the Romans were literally peeling the skin off of him with metal combs, and while he was going towards a terrible death, Rav Akiva said the Shema, the prayer that connects individuals to the Light of the Creator. His students who were with him, watching this terrible scene, asked him, “How can this be happening to you?” Rav Akiva answered, “All of my life, I was concerned about the verse that says the individual who has achieved the highest level of spiritual connection to the Light of the Creator is willing to give up of themselves, even their body, completely. And I was asking to have that moment when I can give up of myself for my connection to the Light of the Creator. Now that I have this opportunity and my body is being taken away from me, how can I not use this chance to even in this moment be connected to the Light of the Creator?”
We have previously learned the very important teaching that nothing negative can happen to an individual who is constantly connected with his consciousness to the Light of the Creator. For instance, when it came time for King David to leave this world, the Angel of Death wanted to go and take him, but couldn't, because in his consciousness, King David was constantly connected to the Light of the Creator. So it says what had to happen was that the Angel of Death created a situation where King David would trip and fall, therefore causing King David’s consciousness, for that moment, to become separate from the Light of the Creator, and then the Angel of Death could have his way.
Getting to a state where we are constantly connected to the Light of the Creator is really the ultimate purpose of all our spiritual work. What connects our consciousness to the Light of the Creator is something very simple; it’s the awareness, the thought, that the Light of the Creator is here with us, and that we are connected to the Light of the Creator. We could be drinking, eating, working, studying, or praying, but our consciousness is simple: the Light of the Creator is here, and I am connected to the Light of the Creator. No negativity can touch an individual who's able to achieve that consciousness completely. This also means that the greater one's consciousness is in that state, the less darkness and negativity can enter into his or her life.
Which brings us back to Rav Akiva, who achieved that level of complete conscious connection to the Light of the Creator, and therefore nothing negative could happen to him. The Angel of Death had no control over him; in fact, we find that he actually had control over the Angel of Death. Had the Creator not forced Rav Akiva to give the Angel of Death back his power to kill, the Angel of Death would have never had the ability to kill again. But the most important understanding of all of this is that nothing negative can happen to the individual who is in the state in which Rav Akiva existed, the state that we need to be striving towards, the state where the individual is in a constant consciousness of connection to the Light of the Creator.
So now we understand what the students were asking Rav Akiva. Because the students knew this about Rav Akiva - that he was on the level of constant, conscious connection to the Light of the Creator, and that no harm can come to anybody who's on that level - they asked him how anybody could be doing him harm and how he could be experiencing death like the rest of the people.
Rav Akiva answered them, “It is true what I taught you and what you know, that no harm can ever come to an individual whose consciousness is connected constantly to the Light to the Creator. But that's only if they don't want it to happen. If it's something that they do not desire to happen to them, they will be protected. This protection that comes to an individual whose consciousness is constantly connected to the Light of the Creator only protects them from what they don't want to happen. What you don't understand,” he continued, “is that I want this opportunity to experience physical death, and even in that moment, maintain my consciousness, my connection, and the giving up of myself for the Light of the Creator. So it is not a situation where something negative has happened to me. Yes, of course I am on the level where nothing negative can happen to me, but that protection is only from things that I don't want. In this case, I desire the situation, and that's why it's happening. The Creator is fulfilling my desire. For my entire life, I have been waiting for an opportunity to be in a state of tremendous pain and still desire to give up of my body in order to maintain my connection to the Light of the Creator.”
So, what is the most important understanding from this? That an individual whose consciousness is constantly connected to the Light of the Creator is never afraid of anything, and no negativity can ever come close to him. The ultimate purpose of our spiritual work is to get to a state where we are so constantly connected to the Light of the Creator that we receive the total protection that comes from it.
Now, with this understanding, we can go back to the beginning of the portion Va’era to learn what Moses is trying to do when he goes to the Israelites; he's trying to teach them this lesson. They have spent hundreds of years in pain, suffering, and death, but there is a way out of it, he tells them. By shifting their consciousness to one of constant connection to the Light of the Creator, they will no longer be able to be harmed by Pharaoh. They can end pain and suffering right in that moment.
And we, too, can decide right now, like Moses told the Israelites, to shift our consciousness and work on maintaining a constant connection to the Light of the Creator; doing so means that all pain, suffering, and death has to end. Because, as we have learned, no harm can come to an individual whose consciousness is constantly connected to the Light of the Creator. It’s the message Moses brings in the portion Va’era: we can end this pain and suffering right now.