Parashas Shemos

In the opening segment of this week’s parashah, the Torah relates (Shemos 1:6-12):
And Yosef died, and all his brothers, and that entire generation. And the Children of Israel were fruitful, and swarmed, and multiplied, and grew very, very mighty, and the land was filled with them. And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef. And he said to his people: “Behold, the people of the Children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, so that it may be, if war occurs, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and go up from the land.” Thus, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pisom and Raamses. And just as they afflicted them, thus did they multiply and thus did they spread, and they became disgusted because of the Children of Israel.
The Maggid comments as follows. Our Sages teach that the Jewish People’s enslavement in Egypt did not begin until all of Yaakov’s sons had died. Thus, Yosef’s death triggered the onset of the enslavement. Now, the enslavement was put into effect by the new king who arose over Egypt, as indicated at the end the above passage. But before the enslavement was put into effect, Hashem caused the Jewish People to grow extremely numerous.
Hashem brought about this great population increase for a specific purpose. Our Sages teach that the exile and enslavement in Egypt caused the Jewish People to degenerate. As David HaMelech writes (Tehillim 106:35): “And the mingled among the nations, and learned their ways.” Similarly, the statement that “the Egyptians did us evil” (Devarim 26:6) can be interpreted a meaning “the Egyptians made us evil.” Hashem saw in advance that this degeneration would take place, and that the Jewish People would lose their spiritual wholeness. He therefore arranged for them to become extremely numerous, so that there would be enough virtues among all of them together to make up one upright and spiritually whole man. And as the enslavement continued, Hashem maintained this state of affairs. In this vein, the Torah says: “And just as they afflicted them, thus did they multiply and thus did they spread.” The added afflictions that the Egyptians imposed on the Jewish People caused further degeneration, and to compensate Hashem made the Jewish People grow ever more numerous.
Note: Today, the 17th of Teves, marks the Maggid’s 207th Yahrzeit.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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