Parshat Shemot - "Down in Old Egypt Land"


Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

23 Tevet 5767/12-13 January 2007


"And the children of Israel came into Mitzrayim, with Jacob every man came with his household." Why? Why was such a decree issued against the Jewish people? Why was it necessary for the Jews to go though the fiery furnace that was Egypt? Galut - exile - was given to the Jews as the ultimate punishment, banishment from their homeland as punishment for not listening to the word of G-d. But here, the House of Jacob, with its seventy souls, is decreed to be in Egypt for over 200 years, and all this prior to the receiving of the Torah laws. If so, what, then, was the ultimate reason that the Jews had to be in Egypt?

Many reasons are put forth by our Rabbis, of blessed memory, for the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt. Among them, the Ramban writes that the exile of the Jews to Egypt was punishment for our forefather Abraham, who
descended to Egypt at the time of famine and left the Holy Land, and by doing so endangered his wife Sara. For this act his descendents were decreed to suffer at the hands of the Egyptians.

Other commentaries bring up the idea that the exile in Egypt brought forth a nation that would be ready to receive the Torah. Like a person with a deformed hand who needs an operation to fix his hand, so, too, the Jewish people needed the suffering in Egypt in order to form us into one unit.

Rabbi Meir Kahane, of blessed memory, writes in his book "Perush HaMaccabee": And G-d chose Abraham for his deeds and merits and rejected Ishmael. He chose Yitzchak also because of his deeds and rejected Esau, choosing Jacob. At that point, after three generations of righteous individuals, the stage was set for all of the descendents of Jacob to become the Chosen Nation, the nation to bring the Divine message into the world and to be a light unto the nations - and all of this could take place only in their own land.

But before this could happen, the Jewish people not only had to be formed into a nation, but more importantly, they had to come to the understanding that there is no power in this world except the Holy One, Blessed be He. This lesson could only be learnt in a foreign land under the hand of an apparently all-powerful king "who knew not Hashem". It was only when the Jewish people gave up any hope of salvation from mankind and despaired totally of Redemption, that they were able to come to an understanding that there is no other power in this world besides Hashem. For it is Hashem who brings down the mighty and raises up the lowly.

So essential was this lesson, that Hashem brought His people to enslavement in Egypt, to learn this lesson from a Pharaoh who all thought held the key to the Jewish people's welfare - but in the end, he was reduced to nothing. This, then, is the main thrust of the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt: To understand that our fate is not in the hands of the apparently powerful world leaders, but rather in Hashem's hands. It took enslavement lasting some 85 years for us to understand this.

Unfortunately, the lesson of Egypt has still not been learnt by all, and many of us still quake in fear at the thought of a Bush or a cup of Rice, as they dictate to the Jewish state what to do. It is time for the "bribe-takers" to be placed in jail and move aside - and let the ones who know Hashem - the only Power in this world - take over. To allow the Jewish people to be what they were meant to be: A light unto the nations.

With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen

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