Parsha Shemos 5767: “Surely This Thing is Known” — The Evolution of Jewish Enslavement

Parsha Shemos 5767: “Surely This Thing is Known” — The Evolution of Jewish Enslavement

by, Moshe Burt

“At the beginning of the Parsha, we are told that when Moshe grew up, he went out to see his brethren … their ways and behavior. When he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and there was no one else in sight, i.e., no other Hebrew … willing to defend the man … being beaten,
he assumed that was because their slavery had destroyed their will to struggle. On the second day, though when he saw two Hebrews fighting one another and one said to him, ‘as you killed the Egyptian,’ he saw that that man believed that Moshe’s actions on the previous day had been wrong. Moshe responded, ‘Surely this thing is known’ — it is not their slavery nor their lack of strength to fight back that is causing them not to resist the Egyptians, because they are perfectly willing to fight one another. What is evidently missing is a sense of justice, of mutual support, of helping the weak, and that is the reason why the redemption had not yet come. ‘Surely, this thing is known’ — now I understand the matter.” (Torah Gems, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg on Parsha Shemos, page 20 quoting Bina Le Itim)

So, in hindsight, Moshe Rabbeinu understood the relationship of the two events described above.

The Midrash Says, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, as rendered in it’s forward on Sefer Shemos, gives an explanation of the evolution of the Jewish slavery in Mitzrayim as a purifying force in forging the uniqueness of the Jewish nation.

“Their stay in Mitzrayim served to mold our people into a unique nation. The Torah, for this reason, terms Mitzrayim the ‘iron melting pot” since in that land the members of Yaakov’s family were forged into a people unequaled by any other on earth. They became a nation which excelled in doing chesed with one another, which maintained flawless moral standards in the face of unrestrained corruption, and which deserved to be termed distinguished since they retained their distinctive Jewish character traits. Notwithstanding these praises, the Jews at large were steeped in the idolatrous cult of Mitzrayim; and as a result, most of them did not live to experience Yitziyat Mitzrayim. Those who did survive, however, possessed the necessary greatness to be elevated to the highest spiritual levels and were worthy of receiving the Torah.” (Forward, The Midrash Says — Sefer Shemos, Rabbi Moshe Weissman)

To better understand the perspective, the Kli Yekar explains the 1st posuk of the Parsha Vayechi, the last Parsha of Sefer Breish’t.

That first posuk reads; “And Yaakov lived in the land of Mitzrayim for seventeen years…” The K’li Yekar indicates in part that Yaakov lost his Ruach HaKodesh; his ability to give prophesy, and that the Shechinah, Hashem’s presence (if you will) departed from him during his 17 years in Mitzrayim.

The K’li Yekar further indicates that the loss of prophesy and the departure of the Shechinah; “was caused by the attitude taken by the children of israel in Mitzrayim, who knew how long their exile would last and allowed themselves to become permanent citizens of Mitzrayim. For this reason, there was no space between the final verse of Vayigash and and the initial verse of Vayechi, to imply that since the children of Israel considered themselves permanent residents of Mitzrayim, Yaakov’s spirit was not with him all of the seventeen years that he spent in Mitzrayim.”

The lesson for our time is about the passive acceptance, the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” argument by many, perhaps the vast majority of us, regarding the prevailing so-called “reality” of corruption, graft, protexia, excessive “make-work” bureacratic red-tape and total lack of legal justice in Israel. Acceptance and emulation of prevailing norms is for us, as if we allowed our ourselves to be permanent citizens of a type of Mitzrayim.

In a previous post, this author suggested the following;

In order not only to remove Olmert and his crew from power but to change government in Israel as we know it, requires recognition by the Israeli people that excessive bureaucracy, protectzia, influence-peddling, the “Old-Boys” doing favors for each other and the existence of Hamulas will have to end.

In short, the beginning of the end of Olmert and his ilk begins with US. It begins with achievement of position and title based on merit, experience, fairness and worthiness, NOT based on who it is you know — from the position of Prime Minister down to the mortgage applicant at the local bank.

And of course, the Olim Chadashim can help foster and hasten this change by being forceful as we would be in the US and not allowing ourselves to be intimidated.

“Surely This Thing is Known”; Until the Jews are willing to commit themselves to the axiomatic reality of change based the attributes of fairness, integrity, merit, experience and worthiness, as well as V’Ahavta, L’Rei’echa, Kamocha — treating our brethren as we ourselves would want to be treated, we will continue to have same effete leadership: Olmert, Peres, Peretz, Livni, Mofaz, Halutz — leaders who mirror who we currently are. And once we begin with ourselves, then we must be prepared to put ourselves on the line in whatever ways it takes in order to bring about the desired national change.

May it be in this year and in all future years, that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif — the vast majority still seeking their permanent places, our brethren in the North who have had their lives disrupted, been displaced from their homes, their property in many cases destroyed by Katushyas, as well as our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard and the lives of the 3 captive Chayalim are central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions. May this abominable period of history called hitnatkut be as a bad dream, be retified — our brethren made whole and may hitnatkut be expunged from collective consciousness yet it’s evil never forgotten.

May we be zocha in this coming year to take giant steps toward fulfilling Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.