VOLUME 98 NUMBER 12
December 17, 2021
Teves 13, 5782
Candlelighting Time 4:17 PM
Rashi cites the Midrash that until Yaakov died, the Egyptian exile did not begin. However, upon his demise, the eyes and the hearts of the nation became clogged because the Egyptian exile was underway. The commentators question this statement because until all of Yaakov’s sons died, the bondage and suppression did not occur. Also, what does it mean that their eyes and hearts became plugged?
Yaakov was bigger than life itself and his influence upon the people was so dazzling and intense that the potential for anyone to stray away from the principles of our faith was impossible. However, upon his loss, the focus of many was no longer to remain absolutely true to the principles and regimen that Yaakov so valiantly instilled in the people, rather they were motivated to mix more freely with the Egyptian populace despite the risk of assimilation, which did indeed occur!
When we discuss that the Egyptian bondage started upon the death of Yaakov, we are discussing the spiritual holocaust that took place. Granted that they were not yet physically enslaved, but the ability to realize what was truthfully healthy for them was no longer functioning. Hence their eyes, their perceptive capability was handicapped, and they began their spiral downwards into the darkness of the Egyptian slavery. Even though at this point Yaakov had not died, but he did command Yosef to bury him in the Land of Israel. Upon hearing that he was planning for his death, the populace was already terrified of the aspect of the future Egyptian exile. Therefore, they already felt bereft of their leader and mentor Yaakov.
We may infer from this explanation, that the eventual physical bondage that they endured in Egypt was actually a development and progression from the spiritual devastation that took place as they slowly but surely began their assimilationist approach and successfully integrated into Egyptian society. Even though, as we know, there was a remnant of the devotion to their legacy since they did not change their mode of dress, language or names, nonetheless, they did indeed plunge into the abyss. They even abandoned the mitzvah of circumcision as time went on! As they became the slaves of their Egyptian masters, they ultimately remembered their legacy and began to call out to Hashem. And that was actually the plan the whole time that they should return to the faith of their ancestors, recognizing that their social integration was a folly and destroyed their relationship with Hashem.
The lesson that we must absorb from the mistake of our ancestors is to prioritize our mission in life. Even though we do live amongst the nations of the world, and we must endeavor to coexist peacefully and respectfully with them, still our primary objective in life must be to serve Hashem as faithfully as possible and within that framework reach out to the nations that surround us and work with them, but not sacrificing even one iota of our responsibilities to Hashem.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
The Midrash says that Yaakov created worlds. The ability of the nation to weather the eventual severe exile in Egypt was due to the vigor and dynamism that he introduced into Egypt. This was their lifeline and sustained them during their difficult times. S’FAS EMES