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EXODUS — 1:1 came

EXOD2 The traditional name in the Torah describing the Jewish people, hundreds of times in the text, is Bnei Yisrael, which means the children of Israel, or Jacob. Since Abraham was the "father" of the Jewish people, why isn't the nation called Bnei Avraham, the children of Abraham? It is precisely because the family had to be united before they could become a nation. Only after there was a united family in Jacob's time did the Jews become a people. The first references to the Jewish people as a people and as the Children of Israel came after they became united as a family. Genesis 46:8 The idea of family is so central to Judaism that the name of the nation itself is the name of the first united family of Jews (Children of Jacob-Israel). The importance and unity of the Jewish family is not an isolated reference in Genesis. The theme continues in Exodus in the first verse, which describes how the Jews came to Egypt as a united family. But then, in Egypt, because of slavery, the unity of the family was in danger of being dismantled. From Rashi's description (commentary on Exodus 2:1), of how one of the most prominent families separated in order to avoid the killing of a potential child by Pharaoh, we can imagine that many other families also separated at that time for similar reasons. It was only because of their daughter Miriam's plea to her parents, says Rashi, that Amram and Yoheved reunited. Miriam used the logic that her parents were acting far more cruelly than Pharaoh. Pharaoh wanted to kill off only the males, but by separating and not having children, her parents were denying both males and females. Thus, as Amram and Yocheved reunite, it becomes the symbol of the reunification of the family as is highlighted in the verse, "a man from the family (house) of Levi took the daughter of Levi." The result is the birth of Moses (Exodus 2:1-2), the beginning of the redemption. It is clear, then, that the redemption of the Jewish people could not occur until they were again reunited as families.


EXODUS — 1:1 sons

EXOD3 …the essence of the Jewish people is the feeling of harmony that a truly united family feels. This concept of unity continued as the Jews came down to Egypt. The very first verse of the book of Exodus describes that Bnai Yisrael came to Egypt, each person with his family, totally united. But then something catastrophic happened to break apart the Jewish family. When Pharaoh forced the Jews into slavery and then threatened to kill every Jewish baby boy, the unity of the Jewish family in Egypt disintegrated. This phenomenon is exemplified by Amram, who married Yocheved, daughter of Levi, one of the leading families of the Jews. After Pharaoh’s edict, he separated from her, afraid to have any more children who would then be killed. Undoubtedly many other families did the same, which broke apart the family structure of the Jewish people. [Continued at [[EXOD28]] (Exodus 2:1 with Rashi commentary) married AMJV 194)].


EXODUS — 1:7 know

EXOD5 Part of the insidious nature of greed is the need not only to have it, but also to show off one's wealth and accomplishments to others. Jacob was well aware of this and that how appearances matter. Therefore, even though he and his family were not particularly in need of food, when there was a famine in the land of Israel and almost all of the surrounding families required food from Egypt, Jacob nevertheless instructed his sons to go to Egypt to obtain food. Why? The Talmud explains that Jacob was careful that his family should not appear to be showing off its wealth by not requiring Egyptian food to survive. Genesis 41:57-58, 42:1-2, Ta'anit 10b Unfortunately, it appears that this message did not carry over to the next few generations. Two generations later, it says that the new Egyptian King did not know Joseph, i.e., he ignored all the Joseph had done to save Egyptian society, and he began to enslave the Jews. What caused this sudden change of attitude toward Joseph and the Jewish people? The verse immediately prior to this one about the new king says that as the Jewish people multiplied greatly, they became exceedingly eminent "Bime'od, Meo'd," which is usually translated as "mighty." But we know from the Talmud and the explanation of the Shema cited above that this word also signifies "wealth." Thus, some interpret this verse to signify that the Jewish people showed off their wealth to the Egyptians (rather than keep it private), which is one of the symptoms of greed. It was for this reason that the Egyptian king and the Egyptian people turned against the Jews, despite everything that Joseph had done to save and lead the country. Berachot 54a


EXODUS — 1:9 numerous

EXOD7 We are commanded not to hate Egypt [Deuteronomy 23:8], but never to forget Amalek [Deut. 25:17-19]. Why the difference? The simplest answer is to recall the rabbis' statement in Pirkei Avot: "If love depends on a specific cause, when the cause ends, so does the loves. If love does not depend on a specific cause, then it never ends" (Mishna Avot 5:16). The same applies to hate. When hate depends on a specific cause, it ends once the cause disappears. Causeless, baseless hate lasts forever. The Egyptians oppressed the Israelites because, in Pharaoh's words, "The Israelites are becoming too numerous and strong for us" [this verse]. Their hate, in other words, came from fear. It was not irrational. The Egyptians had been attacked and conquered before by a group known as the Hyksos, and the memory of that period was still a cute and painful. The Amelekites, however, were not being threatened by the Israelites. They attacked a people who was "weary and worn out," specifically those who were "lagging behind." In short: The Egyptians feared the Israelites because they were strong. The Amalekites attack the Israelites because they were weak. In today's terminology, the Egyptians were rational actors; the Amalekites were not. With rational actors there can be negotiated peace. People engaged in conflict and eventually realize that they are not only destroying their enemies, they are destroying themselves. That is what Pharoah's advisers said to him after seven plagues: "Do you not yet realize that Egypt is destroyed?" (Exodus 10:7) There comes a point at which rational actors understand that the pursuit of self-interest has become self-destructive, and they learn to cooperate. It is not so, however, with non-rational actors.


EXODUS — 1:10 enemies

EXOD8 Pharaoh is afraid the Jews will become too numerous and eventually rebel against the natives. This phenomenon continued as choose were always perceived as foreigners who may one day rebel against the government and cause difficulties. Non-Jews feared a loyalty to God or to the land of Israel and not to the country in which the Jews lived. That is why Napoleon made the Jews choose sign an oath of loyalty to him. Even today in the United States, the most tolerant country in history, Jews are accused of dual loyalty whenever any kind of friction occurs between United States and the State of Israel.


EXODUS — 1:10 wisely

EXOD10 You should feel another person's suffering as if it were your own. … the Talmud Sotah 11a states that Pharaoh held a council with three people before he reached a decision to persecute the Israelites: Bilaam, Eyov (Job), and Yisro. Bilaam, who advised Pharaoh to persecute them, was subsequently killed by the Israelites. Eyov, who remain silent, was punished with great suffering. Yisro, who fled, merited that his descendants were members of the Sanhedrin (highest rabbinical tribunal). At first glance it seems difficult to understand why Eyov was punished. Since Pharaoh was antagonistic toward the Children of Israel, even if Eyov would have spoken on their behalf, nothing would have been accomplished. The proof is that Yisro was rewarded for running away in protest. Had it been within Yisro's power to influence Pharaoh, his response would not have merited reward. The Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, offered a classic explanation. True, Eyov knew that speaking out would not change Pharaoh's mind, but he should have protested nonetheless, as Yisro did by fleeing. When something hurts, a person screams (ven es tut vey, shreit men). If a person remains silent, it shows that he does not feel pain. Eyov was taught this lesson. He would suffer, and although shouting would not help, he would realize that when one suffers, one cries out. Previously, he should have felt the suffering of others; now he would feel his own. ... Rav Simcha Zissel wrote that frequently when people hear that someone is recuperating from an illness, they are happy and no longer feel for his pain and suffering. This is not proper. As long as another person still feels even slight pain, we must feel for his suffering, just as if the person himself feels the pain until he is entirely healed. We must work on acquiring the sensitivity as it does not come naturally. Chochmah Umussar, vol.1, p.11 This is the Chazon Ish's advice on how to acquire the attribute of feeling another's suffering:" For someone to be able to feel the suffering of others he must first train himself to do everything he can to help them and to save them from suffering. These actions will affect the emotions. Also, he should pray for the welfare of others even if at first he does not actually feel their anguish." Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish, vol. 1, 123.


EXODUS — 1:12 oppressed

EXOD11 By their [Amram and Yoheved] listening to Miriam and then reuniting, the Torah is indicating to us that it is wrong not to have children, even in dire circumstances, even though the technical mitzvah was already fulfilled through Miriam and Aaron. Therefore, for those parents who do not want to bring babies into a cruel and immoral world, the Torah is indicating that this is not the Jewish way. There could be no more immoral world than was that of Egypt, and yet Miriam and her reasoning triumphed. Like the product of this union, Moses, that "unwanted" child, could indeed become the future leader of the people and holiest of prophets. In fact, as Pharaoh tried to limit the Jewish population by making conditions unbearable, the Torah tells us that God made sure that the Jewish population would continue to flourish nonetheless, even in these terrible physical and immoral conditions. This also reveals to us that God wanted the Jewish population to thrive. Despite all human attempts to limit Jews from being born, God continued to help the Jewish nation grow when the Jews themselves, like Amram and Yoheved, cooperated.


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