Let’s look at history, ancient and modern, and what is happening today:
Thirty five hundred years ago, more or less, we Jews met up with a demagogue in the personage of the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus who did not know Joseph.
This Pharaoh incited the people of
against the Jews, against us: Egypt
וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל עַמּוֹ הִנֵּה עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל רַב וְעָצוּם מִמֶּנּוּ
9. He said to his people, "Behold, the people of the children of
are more numerous and mighty than we are. Israel
הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם הוּא עַל שׂנְאֵינוּ
וְנִלְחַם בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן הָאָרֶץ
10. Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies…."
The tone of this speech is an appeal to the Egyptian people that plays on their emotions and prejudices, rather than on their rational side. It is demagoguery, and a form of demagoguery that is called fear mongering.
Stepping back and taking a look a hard look at the usual translation of these verses, there may be something more here than meets the eye: The word וְעָצוּם is commonly translated as "mighty". However, I have seen וְעָצוּם translated as "shut" or "close". If that is a valid rendering, then perhaps Pharaoh may have been saying that we are a closed society and not integrated into the population at large.
Whatever the translation, these remarks by Pharaoh are clearly Antisemitic in nature… ancient history from 3,500 years ago.
Now let’s fast forward and look at some recent history: In 1923, Adolf Hitler, may his name be blotted out forever, was serving a five year jail sentence for an attempted revolution. He served only nine months of this sentence in very comfortable conditions during which he wrote “Mein Kampf”, “My Struggle”.
By the way, 10 million copies were printed in
, and it is coming out again. Germany
In “Mein Kampf”, Adolf says many things against Jews. His approach is not a narrow one. It is not that only the Nazis should be against the Jews, not only the people of
or Germany Europe, but everyone; it is universal … all of humanity should be united against the Jews because according to him the Jews are united against all humanity.
He said something like this:
If the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be a funeral wreath for all humanity…this is fear mongering and demagoguery. And it we all know that it continues today. Antisemitism is a Jewish reality.
However lest you be demoralized, there is a greater reality, a much greater reality. One in which the stage has been set by Hashem, but enacted by us Olim. This greater reality is found in this week’s Parshat, Va’eira... It is first found in Chapter 6, Verse 6 where Hashem speaks to Moses and promises him וְגָאַלְתִּי- I will redeem you. It is this promise of redemption that trumps Antisemitism.
Admittedly for me the word redemption or redeem is somewhat problematic. I know how the term “redeem” is used in the ordinary sense of the word. For example:
· A corporation may redeem some of its shares of stock. You turn in the stock certificate to your broker, and in exchange you get money.
· You need some cash. You take an item of personal property. You bring it to a pawnbroker. He lends you some money; gives you a pawn ticket, and he retains the item of your personal property. Later, when you have some money to repay the loan plus some interest, you give the pawnbroker the money and the pawn ticket and you get your property back…you have redeemed your property.
Visually for me these examples do not relate well to the redemption as presented in the Parshat. I have difficulty imagining Hashem in the context of a pawnshop redemption. The image just doesn’t cut it. However, seeing Olim, in the context of a pawnshop redemption is a different matter.
By definition, to redeem something is to gain or regain possession of something that belongs to you, however for a price. In the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, verse 13, when Joshua and the people of
are setting out to reclaim our Land, Hashem says to Joshua: "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you”. Israel
That self same promise was also given to Moses. And the reality is that Hashem has indeed given us this Land. We possess this special Land because the soles of our feet have tread upon it. And yes that requires paying a price. All of us here have done that. We have all given up some physical and emotional comfort in order to make Aliyah. And so have many of our brothers and sisters given of their lives in order to reclaim this Land.
When viewed in this context, the thirty five hundred years of Antisemitism pales if not diminished; it hides in a corner and loses its impact. When you make Aliyah you are uplifted, not only are you living a miracle, but you are part of that miracle. I find that to be heady stuff. Being an Oleh in
today is heady stuff, and I am thankful and humbled to be part of this miracle of redemption. Shabbat shalom. Israel