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This week’s portion marks the
enslavement of our ancestors in Egypt.
Although Yoseph had contributed so
much to Egypt, nevertheless, soon after his death the Jews were already being
"And the children of Israel
moaned under the toil, and they cried out, and their outcry ascended to Hashem
from their toil. And Hashem heard their outcry, and Hashem remembered His
covenant with Avraham with Yitzchak and with Yaakov. And Hashem saw the children
of Israel, and G–d
What is the explanation of these
verses? If read superficially, these verses could be taken to mean that until
the Jews cried out, Hashem did not know of their predicament. Or even worse,
Hashem knew, but was apathetic. How do we reconcile these verses with our
understanding of Hashem, who is omnipotent and merciful?
In order to answer this question,
we must first understand, on a cosmic level, the purpose of the Egyptian exile,
and why the Jews as a nation have been through so many exiles.
When parents discipline their
children, what is their ultimate goal? In a healthy relationship, the goal is
for the child to improve himself through this experience.
When we were placed into slavery,
it was done to awaken us. The Talmud
This was certainly not what Avraham,
Yitzchak and Yaakov had in mind when they accepted upon themselves to go in the
ways of Hashem, and to thereby improve the world.
So when Hashem saw their progeny
happily assimilating into the most corrupt society in the world, He let us be
enslaved, to let us know that Egyptian society and values are not ours. (For an
accurate look at the corruption and perversion of ancient Egypt see Will
Durant’s "Egyptian Civilization").
This was not done to vindictively
punish us, but rather to awaken us and cause us to cry out to Hashem. This is
what Hashem yearned for.
By crying out to Hashem, the Jews
were stating that they understood why they were enslaved in Egypt, and this
enabled them to reach the level where they would be worthy of receiving the
Torah and being a light unto the nations.
This lesson, so bitterly learnt in
Egypt, is the relevant lesson to be understood in every exile. Hashem is waiting
for us to call out to Him.