web analytics
October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Pesach’s Dusty Windows (Part Four)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

For the past several columns I’ve been focusing on “windows” – albeit dusty windows that block our vision and prevent us from looking out and seeing the reality of our Jewish lives.

These windows are everywhere; they encompass our Yom Tovim and all events that befall us. These windows speak. They send us messages. But our ears do not hear. Our eyes do not see. Our windows are covered with layers of thick dust that have accumulated over the millennia.

We have just celebrated the wonderful days of Pesach when G-d broke the chains of our bondage and led us forth to Sinai and the Promised Land. We had beautiful Seders, and while at some point our eyelids may have become heavy with slumber, we forced ourselves to remain awake as we related the story and sang the songs of the Haggadah.

In the midst of our celebration, however, it never occurred to us to look out of our dusty windows, and after Yom Tov we returned to normal everyday life.

Yet the windows of Pesach are crucial. Through them we can see our bitter exile.  Yes, the Haggadah speaks loud and clear: In every generation there are those who stand ready to pounce upon us and devour us but Hashem saves us from their hands. But few of us look out our windows and ask, Why does Hashem have to save us? Why are they trying to devour us?

We fail to understand that all of Jewish history is a replay of sorts. “Whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign” – a message to their descendants concerning what will happen throughout their long and bitter exile.

Let’s dust off the windows and study that first bondage of Egypt – the bedrock of all our future suffering.

Joseph is in Egypt and becomes the country’s viceroy. He sends a message to his father, Jacob, to come join him with the entire family. Jacob comes and Joseph, along with his entire entourage – what in our day would constitute members of Congress, the president’s cabinet, and the elite media – goes to greet him.

Paradoxically, Joseph tells his father to present himself and the family to Pharaoh as shepherds. It’s an odd message, since the Egyptians, as Rashi notes, considered sheep to be sacred and held shepherds in disdain.

Why would Joseph wish to portray his family in such a negative light? Why would he wish to alienate them from Pharaoh and the Egyptian people?

Joseph, who had survived in Egypt for twenty-two years as a lone Jew, had become an expert in preserving Jewish life in exile. He knew that in order to protect his people from disappearing, he would have to settle them in their own community where they could adhere to their own traditions without being threatened by assimilation. But for that to happen, the Egyptians would have to keep Jews apart from the mainstream of Egyptian society and isolate them in their own neighborhood, hence Joseph’s instructions to Jacob. And indeed, a “Jewish city” arose – Goshen.

Thus, Joseph laid down one of the first principles of Jewish survival – a strong, self-contained Jewish community. The Jews prospered, but while they became a vital part of Egypt, they remained a nation apart. All this came to a dramatic halt with the death of the Jacob. This change is related in the Torah in so subtle a manner that the casual student would probably not even pick it up.

Every Torah portion in a sefer Torah either starts on a new line or is separated from the next portion by at least a nine-letter space. But the last portion of Genesis, Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26), in which Jacob’s demise is announced, is not separated from the previous portion (Vayigash), and is therefore known as a “stuma” – closed.  Rashi explains that “with the death of the patriarch, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people closed – shut down due to the anguish of the bondage.”

At first glance this is puzzling, since the actual bondage did not commence until almost eighty years later, when the last of Jacob’s sons died. So what is the deeper meaning of this teaching?

Our sages explain that one of the reasons why spaces are left between sections is to invite us to meditate on the preceding verses. But the very fact that there is no break between these two portions indicates that the children of Jacob did not fully grasp the import of the last words of Vayigash, “Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen and were fruitful and acquired property.” The Hebrew words for “acquired property” – “vaye’achazu” – mean much more than simply buying real estate. They connote taking possession of the land, becoming part of the culture and assimilating.

Assimilation was the first step toward bondage – a reality to which the Jews in Egypt were blind.

Now we can understand why the Torah teaches us that our bondage commenced with the death of Jacob. As long as he was alive our people stayed in their own environment, in their unique Jewish community, but after his demise they “took possession of the land,” buying homes and real estate throughout the country.  The Book of Exodus opens with this new reality: “The children of Israel were fruitful and multiplied. They prospered very much and the land was filled with them.”

Jews became a vital force in every segment of Egyptian society, and our sages explain that this included whatever form of entertainment was popular in those days. This acculturation – assimilation – was paralleled by a total change in government: “A new Pharaoh arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). But how could that be? Can a president of the United States claim he doesn’t know who preceded him? Could the new Pharaoh not have known Joseph?

Once again our sages shed illumination. Pharaoh did not want to know Joseph.  He abolished the laws that Joseph enacted, denied Egypt’s indebtedness to Joseph and his family, and accused them of exploitation and sabotage.

Overnight, Pharaoh demonized the Jewish contributions that had helped transform a famine-plagued country into a great and prosperous empire. He accused the Jews of being a fifth column that threatened the very survival of Egypt. He levied special taxes on them and commanded that they build cities for the welfare of the state; he cast them into slave labor camps and broke their bodies under the weight of excruciating labor; and he crushed their spirit with meaningless, futile tasks. And then he ordered that every male child be killed at birth (Exodus 1:10-7).

Does it sound familiar? Do you recognize 20th-century Europe? Do you see parallels to the Holocaust? And do you see similar winds blowing today?

(To be continued)

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Pesach’s Dusty Windows (Part Four)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Chaye Zisel Braun
Funeral for Chaye Zisel Braun Underway
Latest Judaism Stories
Bible1

Our intentions are critical in raising children because they mimic everything we parents do & think

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

A humble person who achieves a position of prominence will utilize the standing to benefit others.

Noah and his Family; mixed media collage by Nathan Hilu. Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

God-and the world

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

To the surprise of our protectzia-invested acquaintances, my family has thrived in our daled amos without that amenity, b’ezras Hashem.

Shimon started adjusting the branches on the roof. In doing so, a branch fell off the other side of the car and hit the side-view mirror, cracking it.

I, the one who is housed inside this body, am completely and utterly spiritual.

Should we sit in the sukkah on a day that may be the eighth day when we are not commanded to sit in the sukkah at all?

For Appearance’s Sake
‘Shammai Did Not Follow Their Own Ruling’
(Yevamos 13b 14a)

If one hurts another human being, God is hurt; if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous.

I’m grateful to Hashem for everything; Just the same, I’d love a joyous Yom Tov without aggravation.

Bereshit: Life includes hard choices that challenge our decisions, leaving lingering complications.

Rabbi Fohrman:” Great evils are often wrought by those who are blithely unaware of the power they wield.”

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

More Articles from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The call of the shofar is eternal. It is not musical. Its magnetic allurement cannot be explained.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

“There is nothing new under the sun” is as valid today as it was yesterday.

The time immediately preceding Mashiach’s arrival is likened to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.

If we regard pain and suffering as mere coincidence, we will feel no motivation to examine our lives

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/pesachs-dusty-windows-part-four/2014/05/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: