Parashas Shemos

In this week’s parashah, the Jewish People become enslaved in Egypt, and Hashem appoints Moshe to lead them out. In Hashem’s first discussion with Moshe, He says: “I have indeed seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry on account of their taskmasters, for I have recognized their pain.” The Midrash remarks (Shemos Rabbah 3:2):
It is written (Iyov 11:11): “He recognizes men set upon falsehood, and He sees crookedness, though He acts as if He does not contemplate it.” … When the Jews were in Egypt, Hashem saw what they would ultimately do. Thus, Hashem did not say just raeesi, but rather r’oh raeesi. Said Hashem to Moshe: “You see one sight, but I see two sights. You see them receiving the Torah at Sinai, and I do as well. But I also see them commiting the sin of the golden calf … a painful act of waywardness. Yet, I still will redeem them.”
The Maggid notes that Hashem’s stance is an outright wonder. One would think that Hashem would shunt aside the sin of the calf when setting out to redeem the Jewish People, for this sin might be reason not to redeem them. But, on the contrary, Hashem holds the sin in clear view. How can we understand this?
The Maggid explains as follows. The Egyptians afflicted the Jews not only physically, but also spiritually. Thus it is written (Devarim 26:6), “And they did evil unto them, and afflicted them” – the double terminology alludes to the two forms of suffering. The influence of the decadent Egyptian culture caused the Jews spiritual damage – “They mingled with the nations and learned their ways” (Tehillim 106:35). It was the spiritual damage that prompted Hashem to redeem the Jews before the time He had previously specified (in His discussion with Avraham). The Torah tells us that the Jewish People could not tarry, and those versed in the deep levels of Torah wisdom explain that the Jews were at the 49th level of defilement, the brink of spiritual doom – had they remained in Egypt but a moment longer, they would have fallen to the 50th level of defilement, from which there is no return.
Hashem observed the Jewish People’s severe spiritual decline, and He knew that He had to step in and redeem them. Now, when we left Egypt, we were completely freed of the physical bondage, but not completely of the spiritual bondage. The evil effects of Egyptian culture lingers on. Indeed, the Torah exhorts us to fight these effects, and to firmly shun Egyptian ways (e.g. Vayikra 18:3). The evil effects are very strong, and they are what caused the Jewish People to commit the grievous sin of the golden calf. Hashem saw what they would ultimately do, and understood from this observation that, as a result of being immersed in Egyptian culture, the Jews were spiritually ravaged. Hashem’s clear view of the eventual sin thus did not lead Hashem to “hesitate” about redeeming the people, but, on the contrary, was the key factor that led Him to show us compassion and hasten the redemption.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.