Not realizing that one is in exile, is in and of itself the greatest exile
ויקם מלך חדש על מצרים אשר לא ידע את יוסף
A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef. (1:8)
When did the Egyptian exile begin? Most would have us think that the shibud Mitzrayim, Egyptian exile, commenced with the death of Yosef and his brothers. The Torah records Yosef’s passing and immediately adds that a new Pharaoh came into the picture who had no knowledge of Yosef – or the debt of gratitude the country owed him. It would seem that this was the early stirrings of the exile. Surely, during the golden era of Egypt, when Yosef was viceroy in charge of the entire country, exile was the farthest thought from the minds of the people.
Rabbis do not seem to agree with this suggestion. In fact, they suggest that the exile did not begin with chomer u’liveinim, mortar and bricks, when the Jews were enslaved building pyramids for Pharaoh. It actually began much earlier, specifically during the golden era, when the Jews were satisfying themselves from Yosef’s beneficence, when they all enjoyed his good fortune. This seems odd. Yosef had exponentially enriched Pharaoh’s treasury. The Egyptian population was in his eternal debt. He was the acknowledged savior of the Egyptian people.
The Jewish people lived in seclusion in Goshen, their families growing at an extremely quick pace. Everything seemed to be fine. Yet, the Torah alludes to their being obvious, emigrated in a country that apparently had accepted them with open arms. Rashi observes that the usual space break between Parashast Vayechi and the preceding Parsha, Vayigash, is missing. (A new parsha either begins on a new line or is separated from the previous one by at least a nine-letter space.) Rashi thus describes Vayechi as a parsha setumah, closed parsha, a condition that is meant to imply something about the mood of Yaakov Avinu’s children following his passing. At that moment, the hearts of Yaakov’s children were “closed,” in expectation of the suffering and despair of the coming exile that would follow his death. While the actual physical bondage and persecution did not begin immediately, the spiritual exile had commenced. Rashi actually derived this idea from the Midrash that states clearly: when Yaakov died, the shibud Egyptian exile began.
We must say that Rashi’s use of the phrase, Nistemu eineihem v’libam shel Yisrael, “The eyes and hearts of Yisrael became closed,” means that, up until this point, as long as Yaakov was alive, he did not permit his offspring – both children and grandchildren – to lose sight of the fact that they were not home, Egypt was galut for them. “Do not get comfortable, you do not belong here. This is not your home.” He constantly warned them not to get too close to the Egyptians, not to become impressed with all the glitz that represented their lifestyle. Once Yaakov Avinu died, however, the Jews’ eyes became closed; they were no longer aware that they were in galut. They did not see the evil look on the Egyptians’ faces. They did not observe the significance of maintaining their own exclusiveness, as they fell prey to the acculturation that was overtaking them. Next came the need to assimilate and be like the Egyptians. After all, were they not all Egyptians?
Rashi teaches us that exile does not mean only physical bondage. It refers also (and quite possibly in a greater sense) to spiritual disappointment and exile. Not realizing that one is in exile, is in and of itself the greatest exile. When one is acutely aware that he is not included, viewed as displaced, reviled by the host nation, one is compelled to maintain his separation – which, for a Torah Jew, is a good thing.
By Rabbi A. L. Scheinbaum
facts of life: take this serious
We Are All Here For a Reason
ותיראן המילדת את האלקים ולא עשו כאשר דבר אליהן מלך מצרים ותחיין את הילדים
But the midwives feared G-d and they did not do as the king of Egypt spoke to them, and they caused the boys to live. (1:17)
Pharaoh had to stop the tide of the Jewish population explosion. Infanticide was his proposal. He could not prevent conception, but he could see to it that the infants never saw the light of day. The two Jewish midwives feared Hashem and rejected Pharaoh’s orders, claiming that, by the time they arrived, the children had already been born. These midwives were, like so many of the other Jewish women, nashim tzidkaniyos, righteous women, who placed their commitment to Hashem above everything. Their faith in the Almighty motivated their actions, despite the pressing question: To what kind of world and to what type of life were they bringing these infants? They were helping the mothers give birth to children who would live a life of persecution and slavery, beaten, reviled, starved and eventually murdered. Did they not care about the quality of life to which these babies would be subjected?
No! They trusted in Hashem. Their function was to bring the child into the world. Hashem would care for the infant. Life is of infinite value, and even a moment is worth eternity. Furthermore, a Jew measures life according to purpose and value – not quality. If Hashem granted life to these children, then they had purpose. A life with purpose is a life of value. Who were they to decide differently?
Likewise, the righteous women went out to the fields, fed and washed their husbands, giving them hope. Afterwards, the women would return home until it was time to give birth, then, they would return and give birth in the fields under the apple trees. What a beautiful and meaningful practice – but what about the children? Who took care of them? What quality of life would they have? The mothers trusted in Hashem, Whom they knew would take care of the children. These women were righteous Jewesses who understood that every child/neshamah/soul that Hashem sends down to this world has a purpose and value that is immeasurable. That in and of itself is the greatest definition of quality of life! A life of purpose and value – that is a life of quality.
Sadly, many are influenced by the secular way of thinking, believing that the quality of life determines if one should be kept alive. A person who is suffering and can no longer be effective, who is miserable and in pain, has no quality of life. Why make him suffer? A baby whose mother is incapable of taking care of him, who is born into a life of poverty and hardship, will have no quality of life. So, why bother? Baruch Hashem, had these secularists been in Egypt, the story of the Egyptian exodus might have been different!
Every Jew should know that, regardless of his circumstances, he is enjoined to live a life of meaning and purpose, because this is what Hashem demands of him. Otherwise, why would he be here? No one is “just here,” and nothing “just happens.” There is purpose and meaning to all aspects of life. A meaningful story that deserves to be repeated underscores this idea which has been around for a while: During Menachem Begin’s tenure as Prime Minister, one of his ministers was Shmuel Tamir. While not personally observant, Tamir understood that questions which involve Jewish law have to be ruled on by a Torah scholar of repute. The country was suffering through a severe economic crisis. People were without work, money and even food. A secular Jew immediately wonders how to solve the crises by overturning Halachah. After all, whenever something is not right, it is the fault of the religious people. Tamir felt that abortions would stem the tide of “indiscriminant” births and spare many families the negative effects of the economy. He turned to the venerable Tzaddik of Yerushalayim, Horav Arye Levin, zl, an individual who was both loved and revered by Jews of all stripes.
Mr. Tamir presented his case to the Rav, asking that abortions should be permitted, so that families could live. Rav Levin paused for a moment and responded, “I find it quite interesting that you come to me with this question, because, years ago, I had a similar decision to render for a young couple. They were both students, parents of one child, a little girl. They had recently found out that another child was on the way. The financial situation at home was beyond desperate. There was no way they could handle another mouth to feed. As Jews, they begged me for a dispensation to end the pregnancy.
“I explained to them that, while I felt for them wholeheartedly, there were nonetheless three reasons why they must see this pregnancy through to completion. First was the firm conviction that Hashem, Who created life, has the ability to sustain it. Your child is His child as well, and He will be there for yours, because it is also His.
“Second, you have the Mitzvah of Peru u’revu, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ The fulfilment of this commandment is achieved when one has a boy and a girl. Third, you are already pregnant and within you already exists a holy soul with a mission in life. Like every one of us here on earth, every neshamah, soul, has its individual purpose which the world needs; otherwise, it would not have been created. Do not prevent your child’s mission from achieving fruition – for its sake and for the sake of mankind.”
Disappointed by the Rav’s refusal to grant them a dispensation, Tamir asked, “Nu, Rebbe, did they listen to you, and did they have the child?” “Yes, they did. They had a little boy,” Rav Arye replied.
“And Rebbe,” Tamir continued with a touch of sarcasm in his tone, “Did the boy fulfill his mission in life?” Rav Arye looked Tamir right in the eyes and said, “This you will have to answer. The people who came to me so many years ago were your parents. You are standing here today only because they chose to follow my p’sak, ruling. So, indeed, let me ask you now – did you fulfill your mission?”
We are all here for a reason. What is the reason? Hashem knows, because He created us. Let it suffice to say that He does not create indiscriminately. For whatever reason or purpose G-d created someone, a person’s life matters – to him, his family, his friends/students, associates, neighbors, the world, but mostly to Hashem. Since one’s life matters to Hashem, he must do everything possible to preserve every second of it. When Hashem decides to call him home, his life will cease – and not one moment earlier.
By Rabbi A. L. Scheinbaum
something to think about
Can your child be the next Moshe Rabbeinu??
The Rama paskens(Says) that a child should not nurse from an Egyptian woman (or any other non jewish woman), since it brings to Timtum HaLev (Stuffing up the Jewish heart) and bad tendencies (Teva Ra).
The Biur HaGra states, the origin for this Halacha is in Parshat Shmot; where Moshe did not want to nurse from an Egyptian woman when Batya the daughter of Pharaoh found him at the banks of the Nile.
Rashi tells us, the reason why Moshe did not want to nurse from an Egyptian woman was because his mouth was “Peh SheAsid LiDaber Im HaShchinah” – “A mouth which was destined to speak to Hashem.” It was therefore not befitting for such a mouth to nurse from a Gentile. R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky asks, if the whole reason is because of “Peh SheAsid LiDaber Im HaShchinah”, why is this a practical Halacha that is brought down in Shulchan Aruch? Are we going to speak to Hashem?
R’ Yaakov answers, the Torah is teaching us one of the fundamentals of Chinuch. Every parent must look at his child as if he could one day be the one who will speak directly to Hashem. If one lowers the bar, his child doesn’t stand a chance in this world.
However, if the mindset of a parent is set for such lofty goals (“Peh SheAsid LiDaber Im HaShchinah”), then their child can and will achieve greatness!
by Benjamin A Rose
Shlomo and Shalom were arguing when their principal Mr. Samuels came across them in the hallway. “Why are you arguing?” Mr. Samuels asked.
Shlomo answered, “We found a ten-dollar bill and decided to give it to whoever tells the biggest lie.”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Mr. Samuels. “When I was your age, I didn’t even know what a lie was.”
The boys looked at each other quickly and then gave the ten dollars to Mr. Samuels.
1st Aliya: The Jews had been in Mitzrayim since 2238. The Parsha begins as Pharaoh orchestrated the oppression of the Bnai Yisroel. Starting in 2362, with the birth of Miriam, the oppression began in earnest as newborn males were drowned in the Nile. The heroism of the two Midwives was rewarded.
2nd Aliya: Moshe’s birth and “basket river cruise” is detailed. He was adopted by Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh, and raised by his own mother, Yocheved.
3rd Aliya: Moshe killed the Egyptian but was turned in by his own people. Forced to flee, he ended up in the house of Yisro. Moshe married Tziporah, Yisro’s daughter, and Gershon, his first son, was born. The year was approximately 2428, and Moshe was 60.
4th/5th Aliyot: Moshe received his mission at the Burning Bush. The Medresh says that the entire conversation lasted 7 days. At its conclusion, Moshe, armed with the power of Hashem’s promise and the three “signs”, was prepared to confront Pharaoh.
6th Aliya: Moshe asked Yitro for permission to go on his mission. Along the way, Hashem attempted to kill Moshe, but Tziporah saves him by giving their son a Brit Milah. Aaron went to greet Moshe, as per G-d’s commandment. Moshe and Aaron met with the Elders and received their support.
7th Aliya: Moshe and Aaron unsuccessfully confronted Pharaoh. Pharaoh punished the Jews by refusing to supply straw for the making of bricks. The Jewish officers were held responsible and were beaten by the Egyptian overseers. The Jewish officers confronted Moshe and Moshe then confronted G-d. Hashem reassured Moshe that his mission would be successful.