Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 23   No. 13

This issue is sponsored in honour of
the Bat Mitzvah of
Nitzan Ruth Ravitzky n"y
by her grandparents.
May she always be a credit to her family and the Jewish people

Parshas Sh'mos

Golus & Ge'ulah

'Seifer Sh'mos' is also called by the name of 'Seifer Ge'ulah'. Indeed it deals mainly with the redemption, beginning with the description of G-d hearkening to our cries and ending with the Mishkan, symbolizing His dwelling in our midst - something that no other nation ever merited.


But the Seifer also deals with the Golus. The reference to the latter may be relatively brief, yet it was hardly less dramatic than the former. Moreover, the close to two-hundred-year period that it spanned (from year 2255, when Ya'akov Ovinu died, till 2447, when the ten plagues began) lasted considerably longer than the two-year period (from 2447-2449) of the Ge'ulah.


One aspect that the two periods share is the fact that both began slowly, building in momentum from one stage to another, a sure sign that the Divine Hand was at work in both cases. Chazal have taught 'Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu accompanied us down to Galus, and He accompanied us on our way out of Galus'. Since the Torah itself deals at length with the various stages of the Ge'ulah, a brief summary of the same will suffice: 1. G-d heard their prayers and sent Moshe and Aharon to set the stage for the redemption; 2. Yisrael downed tools and became spectators as G-d enacted the Ten Plagues; 3. The Exodus from Egypt: 4. The drowning of the Egyptians in the Reed Sea; 5. Their obtaining of the vast amount of booty that followed; 6. The receiving of the Torah at Har Sinai and 7. The Building of the Mishkan.


Here are the details of the Golus (which began in the year 2238, when Ya'akov and his family went down to Egypt) as recorded by the Ramban.

It was following the death of Levi, the last of the brothers to die, that Par'oh decided to deal wisely with them, and opened the proceedings with a royal tax, as was common with residing sojourners in those days. (According to the Seforno, slight impositions were already imposed upon them with the death of Ya'akov, almost eighty years earlier - simultaneous with the spiritual decline that began with his passing).

The next step was the order to the midwives, Shifrah and Pu'ah, to 'discreetly' kill all the Jewish babies, followed by a similar command that all Egyptians secretly throw all newborn babies into the Nile. 'All complaints would be dealt with by the authorities, who, Par'oh assured them, would take up their case pending the testimony of witnesses'.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians, having enjoyed the 'first taste of Jewish blood', took the law into their own hands and took to searching the Jewish houses for newborn babies. It was at that point that Yocheved was no longer able to hide Moshe, who was born a few months earlier, and hid him in the Nile. This stage did not last long however, as it began with the birth of Miriam (in the year 2362), and ended with Princess Bisya's saving of Moshe (in 2368).


And this was followed by Par'oh's infamous work tax - to build the maximum number of bricks that each person had been tricked into building, ostensibly for payment, on a daily basis - without remuneration, under the scrutiny of cruel overseers. And this in turn, was followed by a decree of total servitude, whereby every Egyptian was authorized to force any Jew that he found to perform any task that he wanted done, however menial or back-breaking. Bluntly stated, the Jews had become slave-labourers!


Whereas initially, the Jews were required to work in rotation, bricks supplied, so that there was at all times, a fixed quota of Jews working for Par'oh, he subsequently obligated all Jews who were not actually building to manufacture the entire quota of bricks to supply the builders. To this end, they were provided with straw, but no other materials - these they had to search for themselves.

Finally, even the straw for the bricks was denied them. And this seems to have been 'the last straw' that sparked off the Divine Mercy, which together with the Jews' heartrending cries, set in motion the machinery of the Ge'ulah.


There are two good reasons to explain the need for both the Golus and the Ge'ulah to come on in stages:

1. Because G-d deals with Yisrael, depending on our behaviour, by means of reward and punishment. Consequently, our situation deteriorates and improves commensurate with our spiritual ascent in the case of the one, and with our spiritual decline, in the case of the other. In practical terms, this means that with the death of Ya'akov and the Tribes, Yisrael began to assimilate and to adopt the Egyptian practices, and as they went from bad to worse, their physical situation worsened accordingly.

And later, as Yisrael began to do Teshuvah, growing from strength to strength, so their situation improved.

2. For the same reason, as day turns into night, and vice-versa, slowly in stages, because it is difficult and painful to go directly from sun-light to darkness and from darkness to sun-light without a transition period. So too, is going from total freedom to abject slavery in one go difficult and painful. When they come in stages, it makes it that much more bearable.

* * *

Why Yosef Died First
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

"Yosef, all his brothers and that entire generation died" (1:6).

The Gemara in B'rachos (55a), extrapolates from here that Yosef was the first of the brothers to die, and it attributes this to the fact that Yosef flaunted his authority.

But how can this be? asks the Torah Temimah. And he cites the Medrash, which, commenting on the previous Pasuk "And Yosef was in Egypt", points out that, in spite of his having attained the highest position in Egypt, he displayed not the slightest trace of pride towards his brothers or his family. Indeed, on a number of occasions we find him behaving towards them with inconceivable humility and sensitivity, conveying the same genuine modesty that we saw in him when he first arrived in Egypt as a slave.


One example of this is the incident told by Targum Yonasan, which took place following Ya'akov Avinu's death. The Pasuk there, relates that Yosef's brothers reacted by expressing fear that Yosef was planning reprisals for what they had done to him. The Targum Yonasan, commenting on the Torah's wording that his brothers 'saw that their father had died', explains that what frightened them was the fact that Yosef, who hitherto had eaten together with his father and brothers, began to eat separately. They attributed this to thoughts of revenge that Yosef now harbored against them and they were worried as to what he now planned to do to them.

But how wrong they were! The commentaries explain that, if anything, the exact opposite was true. Yosef ate alone because he did not want to usurp the leadership of Yehudah. As long as his father was alive, they say, he sat at the head of the table - because, due to his position as viceroy of Egypt, Ya'akov insisted that that was where he belonged. So, out of respect for his father, with whom he obviously ate, he complied. But now that his father was no longer alive, he felt that it was Yehudah, who was the accepted leader of the family, to occupy the position of honour. Now that his father was no longer there, he felt that the right thing to do was to eat alone, in order not to encroach on Yehudah's Kavod, on the one hand, and not to contravene his father's wishes (that he sit at the head of the table), on the other.


In any event, in all his dealings with his family, and with everybody else with whom he had contact, there is not the slightest evidence of vanity. So what exactly does the Gemara in B'rachos have in mind when it accuses him of 'flaunting his authority'?


To answer the question, the Torah Temimah cites a Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, which writes that Yosef lost ten years of his life (he was destined to live until 120) because of the five times that his brothers, when speaking with him, referred to Ya'akov as 'your servant' (and the five times from the mouth of the interpreter), and he remained silent. When Yosef ha'Tzadik allows his brothers to call his father 'his servant' without protesting (despite the problem that this would have caused), says the Torah Temimah, that falls under the category of flaunting his authority, and is subject to the severest of punishments. As we discussed in Parshas Vayeishev in connection with Yosef's 'lack of Bitachon', in turning to the chief butler for help, the greater the level of a person, the more is expected of him and the more G-d takes him to task for the smallest infraction. Interestingly, the same happened to his father, when he lost thirty-three years of his life, for the thirty-three words of complaint, as we explained in Parshas Vayigash.

* * *

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