Posts tagged Egypt.

In a desperate maneuver to get Egyptian fuel, Hamas Minister of the Interior and of National Security, Fathi Hammad, admits the “Palestinians” are a creation, that originally came from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. 

"The UN is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency for them, and they are treated with a special privilege.Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved, are relatively ignored. The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the real causes of Sudan’s conflicts. Who knows really what is happening in Darfur? It is not a “tribal conflict.”"

When You Believe - Hebrew

In honour of yesterday’s Parsha.

Note: When the subtitles read ‘Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach’, it is an error, and should actually read ‘Ashira, Ashira, Ashira!’

פרשת בשלח

I’m sorry this Dvar Torah isn’t going to be as ‘deep’ or as long as usual. I’ve started school again and my schedule is WAY busier than before. However, this week I’m starting a shiur with my new chavruta (the lovely vshavubanim - if you don’t follow her, you should!) and we’ll be writing a joint Dvar Torah every week.

The main feature of this week’s Sidrah is שירת הים - the song that Moses sang when the Israelites finished crossing the Red Sea during the Exodus.

This first sentence of this song is

א. אָז יָשִׁיר מֹשֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת לַי־הֹוָ־ה וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֵאמֹר אָשִׁירָה לַי־הֹוָ־ה כִּי גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם:

1. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.

It is interesting to note that the word יָשִׁיר is written in the future tense and means ‘he will sing’. It is said that Moses will and the Messiah will sing another song, once the Redemption arrives.

This is significant to us, especially in the days that we are living in.

A Jewish proverb states

מעשה אבות סימן לבנים

The actions of fathers are a sign for their children

Essentially, this means that the actions and events that took place in the lives of our ancestors, will be paralleled in our own lives.

The culmination of the Exodus was the Revelation at Mt. Sinai and the Israelites’ entrance to the Land of Israel.

This will parallel to our own Redemption.

It is our duty to ensure, we learn and study as much Torah as possible and enter our eternal Homeland - make Aliyah. As we, the Jews, do this collectively, we fulfil the prophecies of the Redemption and are for sure, on the path to the Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom.

פרשת שמות

There were three stages of the Israelites’ exile in Egypt: גרות-being a foreigner, עבדות-slavery, and עינוי-affliction. As we saw in the previous weeks’ Parshiot, the Israelites only intended to temporarily live in the Land of Egypt (ג.ו.ר) and remain foreigners in the land. However, they began to feel comfortable there, settled there (ש.ו.ב)and felt bound to the land (א.ח.ז.).

The first stage of exile, גרות, didn’t last very long as the Israelites soon adapted to their new environment. It was this feeling of routine that led to the second stage of the Israelites’ exile- עבדות. However, the Israelite’s slavery wasn’t JUST slavery, it is described as “back breaking” and “harsh”.

וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ:

So the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with back breaking labour.

(Exodus 1:1)

The only other time the root פ.ר.כ appears in Tanakh, is in the word פרוכת - the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Sanctuary in the Tabernacle. From this we can see, that the wordבְּפָרֶךְ contains a connotation of separation. The second stage of exile, עבדות separated the Israelites from other Egyptian citizens, making them slaves with no civil or political rights. The Israelites were isolated. 

It is interesting to notice, that the separation and isolation of the Israelites occurred once the Israelites were settled and comfortable in Egypt. The Israelites had forgotten the first stage of their exile גרות and needed to be reminded that they were still foreigners. This isolation, this בְּפָרֶךְ- reminded the Israelites that they were different, they had their own homeland, and they were foreigners in Egypt.

This concept of isolation and being different, is one of the defining characteristics of the Jewish people throughout the millennium. After the Israelites are redeemed from Egypt, G-d tells them through Moses

וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.’

(Exodus 19:6)

The root ק.ד.ש also has a connotation of isolation and separation. For example, Shabbat, is the holiest day of the week and it is ‘set aside’ and ‘different’ to all the other days of the week. The Jewish people, the “holy nation” are also set aside and different.

Menachem Begin would hold a Parsha Shiur at his house every Shabbat. At one such Shiur, he talked about the identity of the Jewish people and the very fact that we are separate, that we are different. He explained that the reason that the Jews are separate is not because there is only one Jewish state in the world or because Hebrew is the official language of one country in the world but because we are something unique a  “nation-faith” –. This means that we are not just a nation – the Jewish People, but also a religion – Judaism. One cannot be a member of Am Yisrael without being Jewish, and one cannot be Jewish without being part of Am Yisrael. The two MUST go together. If we assimilate, if we forget our religion, if we forget that we are foreigners in a foreign land, if we become comfortable in a foreign land; we cease to be different and we cease to exist.

The back breaking Egyptian slavery was not just to remind us that we’re different…but happened BECAUSE we are different. The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites BECAUSE they were foreigners, and because, as foreigners they had no rights. The actual root of the עבדות, was the גרות, and the mistaken notion that foreigners have no rights.

In contrast to the Egyptian way of thinking, the Torah’s laws ALWAYS protect the rights of strangers. 24 times throughout the Torah, whenever the Torah discusses a person’s rights, the stranger, the foreigner, is given special protection.

The measure of justice in a country, is not measured by the rights attained by the rich, native, well-connected people, but by the justice given to the unprotected stranger. One of the basic ideas of Jewish law is complete equality of the native and the stranger.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in his commentary on this phrase

In Jewish Law, the homeland does not grant human rights; rather, human rights grant the homeland! Jewish law does not distinguish between human rights and citizens’ rights. 

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch unfortunately died long before the re-establishment of the State of Israel; but as Jews, we can be proud to say, how relevant a description, his words are to the Jewish state.

In the one Jewish state in the world, anyone can receive Israeli citizenship, anyone with Israeli citizenship can run for Parliament, be a Supreme Court Judge, receive a tertiary education etc! 20% of Israeli’s population is Arab, and they are represented in our governmental, legal, military, law enforcement, education and medical systems!

In a neighbourhood where abuse of human rights, civil rights and political rights is rampant, Israel a safe haven and a “light unto the nations”.

As Jews in Israel, we must remember our own history. Our own abuse, exile, and discrimination. We must be a “light unto the nations” and remain a proud upholder of human, civil and political rights for all - as Jewish Law requires us.

However, as Jews in the Diaspora, we must remember that we are different, we are separate. We must not become overly comfortable in our host countries, and remember that we have an eternal homeland that is waiting for us. 

פרשת ויחי

This week’s Parsha begins with a summary of the end of Jacob’s life, and then continues with a final request from Jacob - not to be buried in Egypt.

וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמוּת וַיִּקְרָא לִבְנוֹ לְיוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ שִׂים נָא יָדְךָ תַּחַת יְרֵכִי וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל נָא תִקְבְּרֵנִי בְּמִצְרָיִם:

When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have now found favour in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with loving-kindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt.

(Genesis 47:29)

According to Kabballah, one of then Ten Sephirot is חסד - loving kindness. The trait of חסד is characterised as a continuous, never ending flow. It is for this reason, that the word חסד is related to the word אשד , which means overflow, or “devoting oneself entirely.

אמת -  truth, can be understood as the counter-weight of חסד .Truth is absolute and does not change - it can always be found and is a constant. When there is an abundance of חסד , it is easy to lose sight of what is essential, the truth - אמת. Therefore, חסד and  אמת make the perfect couple.

It is for this reason, the Jacob specified to Joseph that he should

וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת

deal with me with loving-kindness and truth

Jacob realised that the Joseph would want to bury him in a grand ceremony, with finery and splendour - typical of the overflowing trait of חסד. However, Jacob did not want Joseph to lose sight of  אמת- the truth. Jacob did not desire a grand ceremony in Egypt (חֶסֶד), he wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel (אמת). (Interestingly enough, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel is known as עיר האמת - the City of Truth).

This request required a solemn oath as Pharaoh and the Egyptians would not have been happy, had Jacob and his family emigrated from Egypt. Even so, the transfer and burial of Jacob’s remains from Egypt to the Land of Israel gave the impression that Joseph’s family did not consider themselves Egyptians, and were still attached to their last land of residence.

This is in fact the very reason that Jacob wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel! As I mentioned in last week’s Dvar Torah, the Israelites began to feel an attachment to Egypt and regard it as “their land”. They had forgotten that their stay in Egypt was temporary, an exile - and not their homeland. 

וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ

(Genesis 47:27)

Jacob’s request to be buried in Israel, was almost a form of rebuke and a warning to his descendants. He was saying that although they desired to live in Egypt, he didn’t even want to be buried there! For this reason too, Jacob’s request is recorded in the Torah using the name Israel rather than Jacob. The name Israel, has the connotation of being the bearer of national destiny and the name Jacob, is a more private, personal name.

In the next chapter, Jacob talks about the Land of Israel and uses the expression

אֲחֻזַּת עוֹלָם:

an everlasting inheritance.

(Genesis 48:4)

The commitment and responsibility that Jacob’s descendants began to feel towards Egypt, Jacob still felt towards the Land of Israel - even though he was not residing there.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch comments on this phrase and says

Although for centuries now the Land has not been in our possession, it is our everlasting inheritance. We are attached to it, it holds us, even though it is not under our control.

Although much has changed politically since R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote his commentary on Parshat Vayechi, his message is sill relevant.

Although the State of Israel has been established and there is a Jewish government for the first time since the Destruction of the Second Temple - many of us are still bound and attached to our host countries in the Diaspora.

Today, our eternal homeland, our everlasting inheritance is in Jewish hands. We have the opportunity to make Aliyah, to live in the country with a capital that is the ‘City of Truth’. Although we do have a connection to our host countries in the Diaspora -we must remember that we have much stronger connection to the Land of Israel. We are bound to her. She is our eternal inheritance!

Like said earlier this week

We have this land, and we have it to live in. It’s not okay to say from America, Australia, England, that it is our Land and that it belongs to us - we just don’t live there. How strong are these convictions if we aren’t living in the Land? How can we expect the rest of the world to see Israel as our Land, if we are not here, building our lives in this country, for this country? The best way, the only way to show the world that this is our country, and that there is nothing that any one can do to take it away from us, is through Yishuv Ha’aretz - Settling the Land.

We have our country, and we have the love for our country. Now we have to prove it - and the only way to do that is for us, Am Yisrael, to come home.

Shabbat Shalom!


פרשת ויגש

This Dvar Torah is almost like a continuation or a Part 2 of my Dvar Torah from Parshat Vayeshev. The link is below, so you can read it, if you haven’t already.

In this week’s Parsha, 70 souls from the Jacob’s house go down to Egypt in what is considered the beginning of the first exile.This exile is foretold to Abraham, earlier in the Book of Genesis.

וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה:

And He said to Abram, “You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years

(Genesis 15:13)

The word used to describe Abraham’s descendants in exile is גר - “stranger” from the root ג.ו.ר . This root denotes temporary sojourning and is appropriately the base for the Hebrew word, stranger.

The exile in Egypt was supposed to be hard and uncomfortable. Abraham’s descendants were not to assimilate into Egyptian society, rather they would constantly have the stigma of being a Hebrew, they would constantly be different, be strangers. Egypt was not to be their home forever, rather, a stop-off on the way to the Land of Israel. Just as Egypt was a temporary living space, this exile, was also temporary.

This is seen even in the prophecy in Genesis, as the chapter continues

בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא כָּרַת יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת אַבְרָם בְּרִית לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ נָתַתִּי אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת

. On that day, the Lord formed a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your seed I have given this land,

(Genesis 15:18)

As seen above, immediately after being told of his descendant’s exile and status as “strangers” in Egypt - a temporary living space; Abraham is told that his descendants will be given a land which will be theirs eternally, permanently.

In this weeks Parsha, Joseph’s brothers approach Pharaoh and tell him

. וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה לָגוּר בָּאָרֶץ בָּאנוּ

And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land,

(Genesis 47:4)

Here, the brothers use the same root ג.ו.ר, denoting sojourning, temporary living. The brothers did not intend to remain in Egypt forever, and were content to remain “strangers” in Egypt whilst living there temporarily. In response to the brothers’ request, they were given the Land of Goshen, a fertile, comfortable area where they would be able to shepherd easily.

Later on in the chapter, the narrative says

. וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ וַיִּפְרוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד

And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, and they acquired property in it, and they were prolific and multiplied greatly.

(Genesis 47:27)

Two different verbs are used here י.ש.ב- denoting permanent living and א.ח.ז which also means settling and has a connotation of being tied to the land.

This verse shows us, that the group of 70 that came down to Egypt changed their intention of temporarily living there, and grew comfortable- wanting to live there permanently. Furthermore, they knew the Redemption would not be during their lifetimes, so they had no qualms about putting down their roots in Egypt.

Moreover, the second verb in the verse וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ  with the root א.ח.ז shows the connection that the Israelites had to the Land of Egypt. They felt like they were held to the land and bound to it - a feeling that should only be felt towards the Land of Israel which is our אחזה (contextually translated as portion, but has the same meaning as its root - being ‘bound’ to the land). As the Israelites settled in the Land of Goshen, they permanently endangered themselves. They set the foundation of the danger that their descendants would betray their heritage and forget their true ancestry.

Today, many of us in the Diaspora have seem to forgotten that our exile is only temporary.

Rather, we have placed down roots and have settled in our host countries, easily assimilating. 

Rather than being strangers and only living in the Diaspora temporarily, we have become comfortable, made these places our permanent homes and become “bound” to these foreign lands.

In the 21st century we not only still have the commandment and the responsibility to make Aliyah, but we have the opportunity and privilege to do so. Today, when the Land of Israel is in Jewish Hands after 2000 years of exile, we should be enthusiastic to become Israeli citizens, live permanently in our eternal homeland, be “bound to it” and contribute to our diverse society.

פרשת מקץ

In this week’s Parsha, Joseph’s brothers leave the famine stricken Land of Canaan, in order to travel to Egypt to buy food.

Leaving the Land of Israel is serious, and not an issue to be taken lightly.

In fact, the Sages give 3 situations where it is permissible to leave the Land of Israel.

1. In order to learn Torah if one finds that he can learn better outside of Israel.

2.In order to find a suitable partner to marry.

3. In order to make a living and support one’s family.

Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 5:9)

Obviously, the brother’s temporary ירידה - (lit. going down. con. leaving the Land of Israel) is justified and fits into the third category - supporting one’s family.

When Joseph asked his brothers, from where they had come

וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מֵאַיִן בָּאתֶם

And he said to them, “Where do you come from?”

the brothers responded strangely. Not only did they say from where they came, they also included the reason for their travelling.

מֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִשְׁבָּר אֹכֶל:

"From the land of Canaan to purchase food."

Rabbi Zalman Sortozkin explains Joseph’s brothers responded in this manner as they were used to apologising whenever they left the Land of Israel. They also apologised this time before a “non-Jewish minister”, even though it is not a sin for a non-Jew to leave Israel. The second half of the brothers’ answer was an apology and an explanation as to why they left the Land of Israel (which in their case, was permissible).

The four words of the brothers’ answer teach us not only the severity of leaving the Land of Israel, but the privilege and the responsibility of living in the Land of Israel. Today, we have the opportunity and the ability to make Aliyah and live in Israel - and we should! Today, we don’t have reasons NOT to live in Israel.

For the first time in 2000 years, since the destruction of the Temple and the Roman exile, Israel is once again the centre of Torah learning. There are thousands of Batei Midrash, Shules, Yeshivot and Midrashot in Israel waiting for us to join and learn Torah.

According to recent Aliyah rates, Israel is soon going to hold the majority of Jews in the world. Are there any better places to find a Shidduch?

And finally, Israel has one of the largest and most developed economies in the world.This year, the unemployment rate in Israel has been the lowest it has been since the 80’s. Are there any better places to work? Any other places that will automatically give you Shabbat and Chagim as days off?

It’s time for all of us in the Diaspora to make Aliyah, join the In-gathering of the Exiles and prepare for the Redemption in our eternal homeland, the Holy Land of Israel.