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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Beshalach


Rabbi Stewart WeissShvat 13 5777
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Amazing, isn’t it? The dramatic story of the enslavement - and ultimate Redemption – of Am Yisrael began with Jewish children being thrown into the Nile River, and it ends with Paro’s elite army drowning in the Reed Sea. It began
with one nation languishing in misery at the very bottom of the social ladder, and it ends with our elevation into the nation of miracles, marching out of Egypt "with hand held high," while Egypt falls from power and is ignominiously

This sensational "reversal of fortune" is the touchstone of millions of inspiring stories since, where the oppressed, depressed underdog, against all odds, turns the tables and emerges victorious, as right heroically defeats might.

Let me pose a question: On the verse, "And there arose a new Paro who did not know Yosef," Rav and Shmuel differ; one says this was indeed a new king while the other says it was the same Pharoah, who he just acted as if he did not know Yosef (and his contributions to Egypt). Now, if we accept this second opinion - leaving aside the fact that Paro would be exceedingly old, considering the Jews were in slavery for 117 years! – a great difficulty emerges.

This Pharoah had originally treated the Jews so well: He made Yosef Viceroy, with vast powers; he gave the Jews their own cushy suburb in which to live, treating them as VIP’s; he even sent a royal entourage to accompany Yakov, Yosef’s father, to burial in Israel. He was the paradigm of a foreign leader who respected his Jewish citizens.

So why, how, could he have been so good to us, and then turn into such an anti-Semitic, sadistic monster?

Let me suggest - and this is not out of paranoia or reaction to any current events – that the Torah may be telling us that even in the best of scenarios, we need to be extremely wary of life in the Diaspora. Yes, it may seem idyllic at times, but under the surface, even the best Paro is precarious.

But there is another profound message here. Just as a seemingly ideal situation can deteriorate to disaster, so, too, can a dismal prognosis turn into a glorious outcome.

G-d wants us to know that He is Echad, He knows and sees all, past, present and future. He has things worked out to their appropriate conclusion. As long as we don’t walk out at halftime – as so many unlucky people did during the Super Bowl – we will surely enjoy the final score. When things get dicey in Israel, and events of the day start to get us down, we must gather our faith and believe that it will ultimately all be directed to the good.

Stay loyal to the cause; be a Patriot and you will always trump the opposition.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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