This week’s haftorah displays the painful reality that people do not learn their lesson and history will undoubtedly repeat itself. The stage brings us back to the destruction of the Egyptian nation by the Babylonian army. However, this time the prophet places special focus on the massacre of the Egyptians and the execution of their Pharaoh. The prophet Yirmiyahu says in the name of Hashem, “I will direct my attention to the multitudes of Alexandria and towards Pharaoh and all of Egypt…I will deliver them into the hands of their killers and into the hands of Nebuchadnezar, King of Babylonia.” The Radak explains that these passages refer to a massive massacre which will befall the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. The Egyptian nation had mistreated the Jewish people for many centuries. It began with Shishak the king of Egypt who invaded the Jewish nation after the passing of Shlomo Hamelech and cleared out the treasury of the king. Chazal explain (see Rashi M’lochim I, 14-6) that Shishak even stole the glorious throne of Shlomo and brought it to Egypt. The Egyptians continued to destroy the Jewish morale and betrayed them after receiving large sums of money in exchange for their military protection. Finally, Pharaoh N’cho executed the pious King Yoshiyahu when he refused to permit Pharaoh to pass through Eretz Yisroel enroute to a war with Assyria.
The time had finally arrived for Egypt to be repaid for their cruelty. Merely exiling them from their land for forty years was insufficient. A massive massacre was in the planning stages and an appropriate execution was awaiting their Pharaoh. Hashem reminded them of His very special relationship with His people. Hashem’s earliest proclamation to Pharaoh , “My son, My first-born is Israel” was revisited. Hashem announced that tampering with His chosen nation would be repaid in full and Egypt’s cruelty and cold blooded murder certainly deserved complete reciprocation.
It is interesting to note the particular description Yirmiyahu chooses when referring to this Babylonian invasion. He says “They cut down her forest, for the enemy could not be counted; they exceeded the locusts, without any imaginable limit.” The prophet compares the Babylonians to locusts which invade the land in unimaginable proportions. This analogy seems to bring us back to the plague of locusts in this week’s sedra. It suggests some corollary between the Egyptian plague in earlier times and the invasion of Egypt during the reign of Nebuchadnezar.
The explanation for this may be gleaned from the insightful words of the Kli Yakar in this week’s sedra. He notes the Torah’s specific introduction to the plague of locusts and relates this to an unprecedented phenomenon in the land of Egypt. The Torah introduces this plague and states, “I have hardened Pharaoh”s heart and his servants’ in order to place My signs in his midst. And in order that you shall relate to your children and grandchildren how I played with Egypt.” “Why,” asks the Kli Yakar, “is this introduction given to the plague of locusts rather than any other plague?” He responds and quotes the testimony of Rabbeinu Chananel regarding an undisputable phenomenon in the land of Egypt. Rabbeinu Chananel states that after the massive Egyptian plague of locusts there has never been a locust invasion in Egypt. Even when all the surrounding countries are infested by locusts these creatures will not cross over into Egyptian borders. Although they do remotely filter into Egypt they never destroy any of the existing crop. Rabbeinu Chananel explains that this phenomenon serves as an everlasting testimony to the plague of locusts in this week’s sedra. After Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to Hashem to remove the locusts from Egypt the Torah states, “There will not remain one locust throughout the entire Egyptian border.” This passage became an everlasting statement and locusts will never remain in the land of Egypt. This undisputable fact serves as living testimony for all of the ten plagues. It reminds the world of Hashem’s response to Egypt for all their cruelty to His chosen people. The plague of locusts therefore deserves this special introduction because it is, in fact, the perfect vehicle through which to demonstrate Hashem’s revelations in Egypt.
We can now appreciate the particular description of Yirmiyahu regarding the Babylonian invasion. Egypt’s attitude towards the Jewish people could not be condoned. They, more than anyone, should have anticipated the consequences of their actions. The absence of locusts in Egypt was a constant reminder of their past experiences for mistreating the Jewish people. One certainly could never say that the Egyptians were not warned. However, people never learn and history must therefore repeat itself. If the earlier plague of locusts was no longer sufficient then the Babylonian “locusts” would do the trick. Hashem therefore ordered a full scale invasion of the Babylonian Empire as a repeat of the earlier Egyptian experience. They would once again realize that the Jewish people are very dear to Hashem and tampering withtheJews is certainly not advisable because Hashem does protect His people and respond accordingly.