Sharing Torah Insights

Becoming a Nation

Posted on כ״א בטבת ה׳תש״ע (January 7, 2010) | in Shmot | by

There is a book called The Fugu Plan, which tells the story of a Japanese plot to encourage Jews to move to Japan following World War II. The Japanese leadership was presented with a translated copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and, in a move entirely at odds with other nations’ reactions to the book, decided to bring the Jews to Japan in a very controlled manner to better the Japanese economy.

While this story may not be true, it is a story we can relate to because it is very similar to what happened to start off the slavery from Egypt.

וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ-חָדָשׁ, עַל-מִצְרָיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע, אֶת-יוֹסֵף. וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-עַמּוֹ: הִנֵּה, עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–רַב וְעָצוּם, מִמֶּנּוּ. הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה, לוֹ: פֶּן-יִרְבֶּה, וְהָיָה כִּי-תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם-הוּא עַל-שֹׂנְאֵינוּ, וְנִלְחַם-בָּנוּ, וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ.

A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef. And he said to his people “Behold the nation of Bnei Yisrael is many and more mighty than us. Let’s be smart with [them], lest they become even more numerous and it will be when we are at war that they will join with our enemies and fight with us and leave the land.”

Looking at Pharaoh’s statement closely, there are many questions to ask.
The Kli Yakar points out that this is the first time in the Torah that Bnei Yisrael are called עַם – a nation. If this is such a monumental step forward from being just a family to becoming a fully fledged nation, why is the evil Pharoah the one who merited to make this distinction?

In addition, the Kli Yakar points out that רַב וְעָצוּם מִמֶּנּוּ means that while the Jewish people were רַב – many – they were still not as numerous as the Egyptians. Nevertheless, they were still וְעָצוּם מִמֶּנּוּ – more mighty that the Egyptians. If the Jews were more mighty than the Egyptians, then why did they allow themselves to be subjugated?

Finally, if Pharaoh was truly anti-Semitic, he would have desired to kill all the Jews. Instead, we see him say that is true fear is that the Jews will leave, as it says פֶּן… וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ. Why was this his greatest fear?

The answer to all of these questions is a simple one. Sometimes our enemies realize our abilities better than we do ourselves. Pharoah recognized that the Jews were no longer a simple family, but rather a nation unto themselves, capable of toppling the Egyptian empire with the sheer force of their unity and talent. He recognized that the Jews were influential in all spheres of government and he knew that the one thing Egypt couldn’t afford was for the Jewish people to leave. Egypt needed the brain-power and the man-power of the nascent Jewish nation to function as the dominant world empire that they were.

Additionally, Pharaoh saw that the Jewish people didn’t realize their own power. They still considered themselves a collection of independent families and did not yet realize that by joining together they could easily move from family/tribe status to nation status.  Thus he devised schemes to outsmart the Jews, attempting to prevent us from ever realizing our true potential.

Today as well, the Jewish people are fractured. May we realize that by uniting together we too have the ability to change worlds and to bring the true and ultimate redemption soon in our days.

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