This week’s parsha begins by stating that when Pharaoh sent Bnei Yisrael out of Mitzrayim, Hashem did not take them in the direction of the P’lishtim. But why does the Torah write that Pharaoh sent Bnei Yisrael out of Mitzrayim, when we know it was Hashem who took them out? Additionally, why bother prefacing the fact that Hashem did not take Bnei Yisrael in the direction of the P’lishtim with the fact that it was Pharaoh who sent Bnei Yisrael out of Mitzrayim?
My Rebbe, Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l, the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, explained that when Pharaoh sent Bnei Yisrael out, he did so in a pleasant manner. The Midrash says that he even arranged for music to be playing as they left the country.
Why did he do this? Pharaoh had eventually come to the realization that Hashem was going to take Bnei Yisrael out of Mitzrayim. At that point, he thought to himself that although he couldn’t beat Hashem, so to speak, he will try a different strategy. He knew that if he would send them out with a smile on his face, and in a pleasant manner, it would leave an amiable impression on them. If the last impression that the freed people had of Mitzrayim would be positive, then down the line when things would become difficult, as life often is, Bnei Yisrael may return to Mitzrayim.
As we see several times, the Torah recounts how Bnei Yisrael actually verbalized that they would have rather remained in Mitzrayim. This was because when they left their departure was done in a kind and congenial manner leaving an affable impression on their minds.
It was for that reason that Hashem had to take Bnei Yisrael in a different direction, so that they would not meet difficulty and war, so shortly after they left. Since Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim with “beshalach Pharaoh,” in other words with Pharaoh sending them out with a friendly smile on his face, Hashem had to take them in a different direction.
The Yetzer Harah uses the same tactics in each and every generation. He makes the things that are harmful to us seem great, and when we take leave of them, he makes sure that it is with a smile. He does this in order for us to remember how good the aveiros were, so we can return to them when we endure life’s hardships while serving Hashem. We must be conscious of this and recognize the good from the bad, hiding behind the guise of a smile.
In this regard the Yetzer Harah is quite the politician – very diplomatic and doing everything with a smile while passing legislation that devastates the country and countless lives. It is our responsibility to see through the lies and recognize the truth. This applies to our lives in every respect, but especially with regard to our constant battle against our evil inclination.
In Parshas Vayechi, Yaakov Avinu begins his bracha to Yosef by mentioning ben poras Yosef…banos tza’ada alei shur (Beraishis 49:22). Rashi explains that the girls of Mitzrayim would try to get a glimpse of Yosef. In the following pasuk, Yaakov Avinu mentions that while Yosef was living at home his brothers made his life bitter. Interestingly, these events are not in chronological order. Rav Shmuel explained that Yaakov was hinting to the fact that although Yosef was treated like a celebrity in Mitzrayim and hated in his father’s house, Yosef was not moved or overcome by his celebrity status in Mitzrayim. He knew that Mitzrayim was full of tumah and his father’s house was full of kedushah. As the following pasuk testifies, “Vateishev b’eisan kashto –Yosef stood firm to his beliefs.”
We live in a time where sheker surrounds us. It is nearly impossible to turn on a news station and believe what they report. Truths are buried and lies are manufactured. Hence the new terminology “fake news” was born. But it is not just the networks that disseminate fake news. It is the world we live in. the Yetzer Hara has laced and obscured everything harmful to spirituality with the most enticing and appealing coating this world has to offer. Our job is to see through the smoke and mirrors of this “world of imagination,” and recognize the good from the evil. May we uncover the false hoods of this world and merit to sing shira to Hashem once more, amen.