Torah Weekly

For the week ending 6 January 2018 / 19 Tevet 5778

Parshat Shmot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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With the death of Yosef, the Book of Bereishet (Genesis) comes to an end. The Book of Shemot (Exodus) chronicles the creation of the nation of Israel from the descendants of Yaakov. At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Pharaoh, fearing the population explosion of Jews, enslaves them. However, when their birthrate increases, he orders the Jewish midwives to kill all newborn males. Yocheved gives birth to Moshe and hides him in the reeds by the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter finds and adopts him, although she knows he is probably a Hebrew. Miriam, Moshe's sister, offers to find a nursemaid for Moshe and arranges for his mother Yocheved to fulfill that role. Years later, Moshe witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and Moshe kills the Egyptian. Realizing his life is in danger, Moshe flees to Midian where he rescues Tzipporah, whose father Yitro approves their subsequent marriage. On Chorev (Mount Sinai) Moshe witnesses the burning bush where G-d commands him to lead the Jewish People from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael , the land promised to their ancestors. Moshe protests that the Jewish People will doubt his being G-d’s agent, so G-d enables Moshe to perform three miraculous transformations to validate himself in the people's eyes: transforming his staff into a snake, his healthy hand into a leprous one, and water into blood. When Moshe declares that he is not a good public speaker, G-d tells him that his brother Aharon will be his spokesman. Aharon greets Moshe on his return to Egypt and they petition Pharaoh to release the Jews. Pharaoh responds with even harsher decrees, declaring that the Jews must produce the same quota of bricks as before but without being given supplies. The people become dispirited, but G-d assures Moshe that He will force Pharaoh to let the Jews leave.


The Trump Card

“Come let us outsmart it lest it become more numerous, and it may be that if a war will occur, it too may join our enemies…” (1:10)

My first reaction to the nations of the world's overwhelming rejecting of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel was a mixture of disappointment and hurt feelings.

“Why can’t they accept us? Why can’t they live in peace with us?”

My second reaction was, “Nothing changes.”

Anti-Semitism is as old as “Semitism.”

The first recorded anti-Semitic slur is recorded in this week’s Torah portion:

“The Children of Yisrael are more numerous and stronger than us. Come let us outsmart it, lest it become more numerous, and it may be that if a war will occur, it too may join our enemies…”

One of the methods that the Nazis (yemach shemam v’zichram) used to condition the Germans to accept a policy of Jewish genocide was to portray the Jews as vermin, not human at all. For example, Nazi propaganda films of the thirties show sequences of scurrying rats, closely intercut with scenes of poor Jews scuttling around the Shtetl. Jews who clearly have psychological or physical problems are shown as exemplars of the nation. A chilling echo of this is Pharaoh’s use of the singular ‘it’ following the collective noun “Children of Yisrael” in the above verse. Technically, ‘it’ is the correct pronoun, but it carries the subliminal message that the Jew is less than human — an ‘it’ and not a ‘he.’

“…it too may join our enemies…” This is an amazing wildly-fantastic accusation. Was it not Yosef, the Jew, who saved Egypt and the civilized world from utter starvation? Time and again the loyalty of Jewish servants of the crown is a cause for anti-Semitism, rather than a guard against it. In every generation, again rises the libel of Jewish potential perfidy, a festering fifth column in the body politic.

Until Mashiach comes we should not expect nor court the good offices of the nations of the world. Anti-Semitism is the norm. But in the midst of the darkness there will always be the Righteous of the Nations who will recognize us as “G-d’s People”. However, we cannot and should not expect the recognition of the nations until the day when “G-d is One, and His Name is One.”

May it be soon!

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