Some things in life come naturally, some need to be learned. When it comes to communication, there are some expressions that just come instinctively - universal words which are automatically understood by all. One such word is ‘wow’. Do something extraordinary anywhere in the world - from serving up a fantastic kebab in the Middle East, to scoring a hat-trick on an Argentinian soccer pitch - and the reaction for both will likely be ‘wow!’.

‘Wow’ has profound origins in the Torah as well. The Torah is a book of life, after all. It's a book that both teaches us how to live life, and brings ‘life’ to our lives. And, in a way, life is all about the ‘wow’s. Not that every moment feels like ‘wow’, there are obviously ups and downs. But life is about discovering the beauty behind the mundane, the magic behind the monotony. It’s about taking the world and making it ‘wow’.

Take your talents and create something new for the world. Wow. Take your knowledge and discover something that can help humanity. Wow. Take a house and make it a home for your family. Wow. Take your love and share it with someone special. Wow. Take a physical object and do a Mitzvah with it. Wow. These are just a drop in the bucket of ‘wows' which we can discover in life.

The ‘wows' usually occur when we take our potential - the knowledge, talents and love which we have inside us, or received from others - and make it become alive through making it our own.

That theme is spelled out in the very word ‘wow’ itself: The word is composed of two sounds, ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ (yes, like when people ‘ooh and ah’ when they see something special). In Hebrew, these two sounds are written with the letter ‘Vav’/ו (which can make the ‘ooh’ sound), and the letter ‘Hey’/ה (which can make the ‘ah’ sound).

The letter Vav, producer of the ‘ooh’ sound, is written in the form of a straight line. It represents our potential, the internal energy which we can draw upon. Like the letter Vav, potential is just a ‘line’. It isn't anything concrete yet, like energy ‘stuck in the pipeline’. The letter Hey, creator of the ‘ah’ sound, is written as a kind of cube shape. It represents us taking our ‘line’ of potential, and ‘spreading it out’ throughout our lives - i.e. making it our own. 

That makes something special. That truly is wow.

In this week’s Torah portion we read the famed story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Jews, after all the tremendous hardships in Egypt, had found a way to persevere and come out stronger. They had successfully taken all the love and inspiration of the founding fathers and mothers and the Jewish people, and made it their own. We’re all here today thanks to them.

We also have the opportunity to continue the chain. We can take their story, together with four millennia of Jewish history, and light up our own lives in our own, special way. 


Rabbi Avrohom