Parshas Ki Savo
The Egyptians Made Us Evil
This parsha contains the mitzvah of Bikkurim [offering one’s first fruits in Jerusalem] and the mitzvah of reading the associated Parshas Bikkurim [First-Fruit Reading]. In Parshas Bikkurim, a person offers praise to the Almighty, expressing gratitude for the many kindnesses He has bestowed on the Jewish people in general and on this farmer in particular.
In expressing this gratitude, the person testifies that he not only appreciates what he has received now, but he appreciates the whole process by which he has arrived to that point in time. In Parshas Bikkurim, we trace the whole history of the Jewish people from the earliest Patriarchic era to our present day.
In detailing the suffering we experienced in Egypt, the narrative includes the following declaration: “The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us.” [Devorim 26:6]. We have similar pasukim [verses] in Parshas Chukos: Moshe sent emissaries to the King of Edom: “You kn ow all the hardship that has befallen us. Our forefathers descended to Egypt and we dwelled in Egypt many years, and the Egyptians did evil to us and to our forefathers” [Bamidbar 20:14-15].
There is a subtle difference between the two pasukim complaining about our treatment at the hands of the Egyptians. In Parshas Chuukas, it says “Vaya’re-oo LANU Mitzrayim,” meaning the Egyptians were evil unto us. Here the pasuk uses the expression “Vaya’re-oo OSANU haMitzrim,” to say essentially the same thing – that the Egyptians were bad to us. Grammatically speaking, the more correct way to say it is “Vaya’re-oo LANU” – we were the OBJECT of their actions. “vaya’re-oo OSANU haMitzrim” literally means “they made US bad”.
Rav Gifter and Rav Zalman Sorotzkin both gave similar insights into this expression, which literally means that they made us bad. The Egyptians had a terrible public relations problem on their hands. When the councils of government in Egypt decided to en slave the Jewish nation, they had to come up with a way of selling this evil plan to the people of their country. How were they to suddenly turn on the descendants of the people who literally saved Egypt from starvation? Where is the sense of national gratitude? What kind of nation starts enslaving and torturing a people who saved them from destruction?
Pharaoh’s pronouncement to his people is recorded at the beginning of the Book of Shmos: “Behold! The people, the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us outsmart them lest they become numerous and it may be that if a war will occur, they too may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the land.” [Shmos 1:9-10].
In other words, Pharaoh slandered us. “Jews are disgusting people. They are disloyal. They are cowards. They are a threat to us – a fifth column in our own society. We have to watch out for these guys because they can turn around and ruin us.” “Vaya’re-oo OSANU haMitzrim” – means they turned the Jews into evil people. They made us bad. This is the only way that they were able to perpetrate such evil upon the nation who saved them from starvation.
These pasukim and this technique is the manual for anti-Semitism the way it has existed for the last 3000 years. They turn us into despicable people. It is not hard to hate despicable people. The players have changed over the years. We are no longer dealing with the ancient Egyptians but with the “United Nations” and with the various enemies of our people throughout the world. But while the players have changed, the game plan remains the same. The Jewish people, and often more accurately the Jewish state, is demonized and slandered at every opportunity.
As always, our salvation from such threats and diabolical plans for our destruction lies ultimately only with the Almighty.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion. The halachic topics dealt with in the portion of Ki Savo in the Commuter Chavrusah Series are the following:
Tape # 021 – The “Ins and Outs” of Mezzuzah
Tape # 066 – Learning Hebrew: Mitzvah or Not?
Tape # 111 – Allocating Your Tzedaka Dollar
Tape # 157 – The Prohibition Against Erasing G-d’s Name
Tape # 204 – Giving a Sefer Torah To a Non-Jew
Tape # 251 – Shidduchim and Parental Wishes
Tape # 294 – Geirim and Davening: Some Unique Problems
Tape # 384 – The Prohibition of Chodosh
Tape # 428 – Mentioning G-d’s Name in Vain
Tape # 472 – Tefilin Shel Rosh
Tape # 516 – Hagbeh
Ta pe # 560 – Selichos
Tape # 604 – Reading the Tochacha
Tape # 648 – The Onain and Kaddish
Tape # 692 – The Staggering Cost of Lashon Ho’rah
Tape # 736 – Your Aliyah: Must You Read Along?
Tape # 780 – Can You Sue Your Father?
Tape # 824 – Hitting an Older Child
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.
RavFrand, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.