Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Shemos

Egyptian Exile: The Prototype for Later Exiles

The Torah does not describe for us in any form whatsoever as to what happened to the family of Yaakov - who are now the people of Israel, and suddenly very numerous and at one time very influential and comfortable in Egyptian society - in the years between the death of Yosef and the enslavement of the Jews many decades later.

The Torah is not here to give us a narrative of interesting historical facts and, as it did in the book of Bereshith, it skips over decades and even centuries without giving us any in-depth description. But Midrash does attempt to somehow fill that void and portrays for us on one hand a people who attempted to remain separate and unique from the Egyptian majority culture by its dress, language and historical memory and yet on the other hand succumbed to adopting Egyptian gods and beliefs.

The Egyptian exile was the prototype for all later exiles. It posed the challenge of how to remain steadfastly Jewish while living under foreign rule and enmeshed in a foreign, even alien, culture and belief system. This has remained the major challenge of Jewish existence throughout the ages. This challenge accounts for the relative paucity of the number of Jews in the world and for the continuing pressures – anti-Semitic and otherwise – that constantly threaten to erode Jewish identity and even existence.

Every place of Jewish exile in the Diaspora has faced this challenge. Some localities have fared better than others in coping with it. Though the challenge has remained constant, the responses to it have varied from place to place. Apparently what may have worked successfully for one society and time may not be the correct solution for another.

It is important to note that the redemption from Egyptian exile was facilitated by Heaven through unlikely means and by a surprising champion of Israel’s cause. The likely choice for becoming the redeemer of Israel from Egyptian bondage was certainly Aharon. He was present with the Jews during the darkest years of persecution and was recognized by the people as its leading personality. He led the tribe of Levi, the tribe of scholars of Yaakov’s Torah and the bearers and teachers of his tradition.

His brother Moshe, who disappears from the scene of Jewish suffering in Egypt for approximately sixty years, was raised in the palace of the hated Pharaoh and does not appear to be especially articulate in speech. As a shepherd, he engages in an occupation reviled by the dominant Egyptian society and culture. Yet it is Moshe who is the redeemer, the lawgiver, and the greatest of all prophets that the world will ever know.

It is Moshe who will teach Israel the Torah, which alone will be the necessary guarantee for Jewish survival and growth in all of the societies in which it will find itself to be part of. God’s guidance and protection of Israel lies in providing the Jewish people with proper, even if unlikely, leadership to meet the challenges constantly imposed on a small people by varying times and place.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 

ARTICLES ON TETZAVEH:

View Complete List

Case Clothed
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

There is Knowing, and there is Knowing
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760

A Divine Environment
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

> G-d Sees Shades of Gray
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5764

A Phase of Glory
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

Make Yourself At Home
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

King of Hearts
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Clothes Make the Man
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5764

G’d the Source of Life
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5771

ArtScroll

The Inner Amalek
Shlomo Katz - 5766

It Shows on the Forhead...
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

Pure Oil
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Kindling the Menorah: Lighting up
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

First and Best
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Every Step Has An Impact
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

The Priestly Garments: For Splendor or For Service?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information