Beit Midrash

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When Will I Be Loved?

Can you picture a Jewish People, an Israel, loved & admired by the world at large? Seems like quite a stretch, doesn't it?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 8 5781
Can you picture a Jewish People, an Israel, loved & admired by the world at large? An Israel that perennially wins the "Most Admired" prize in international voting? Can you see our Israeli ambassador in the United Nations getting a standing ovation from the standing-room only crowd at the General Assembly? Seems like quite a stretch, doesn't it? Considering the way we're typically portrayed in the media, & the level of anti-Israel diatribe out there, such a scenario sounds pretty far-fetched. And yet, this is the challenge, the goal, the dream – and the Divine promise - that lies ahead of us.

As Israel prepares to leave Egypt, the Pasuk tells us: "And Hashem caused the Jewish People to be viewed favorably by the Egyptians; Moshe, too, was admired as a great man in the eyes of Pharoah's servants and the people of Egypt." (11:3)

What a stunning, amazing statement! We surely would have expected a far different reaction! After years of anti-Jewish incitement and demonization by the Pharoahs, after 10 Plagues that decimated the Egyptian landscape, economy & daily routine, we'd have thought the Jews would be utterly detested and ridden out of Mitzrayim on a rail. Instead, we left b'Yad Rama, with hand held high, showered with lavish gifts! Earlier (5:21), Bnei Yisrael had complained to Moshe that they were so detested that "even our very scent is abhorrent to the Egyptians!" What happened so that now we came out smelling like a rose?!

I suggest the Egyptian’s perception of us radically changed when our own perception of ourselves changed! As long as we saw ourselves as a pitiful, pitiable people, others viewed us likewise, & their pity soon turned to contempt. If we had no pride in who we were, if we ourselves had no self-respect, how could we possibly expect others to respect us?

Moshe changed all that. The first task assigned to him by G-d (6:6-7) was to take us out of "sivlot Mizrayim." The word "sivlot" can mean "burden," but it can also mean "tolerance," the tolerance of being brutally mistreated by Egypt and simply accepting it, doing nothing to stop it. Moshe taught us to stand up for ourselves, to fight back, to view ourselves and conduct ourselves as an Am Segula, not as a degraded slave people. Our defining moment came when we were commanded to take a lamb – the Egyptian deity - and offer it to the One, true G-d. Tough? Absolutely. But - no guts, no glory! We would gather up our courage and proudly declare that we are Hashem’s first-born and that we fear Him and Him alone.

Hashem promises that one day we shall be looked up to by the world as a model for holiness in human form. While that seems so very far away, we have recently been granted a glimpse of what the future holds for us. When the Emirates broke ranks with other Arab-Muslim nations and established diplomatic and economic relations with us, they expressed their whole-hearted admiration and respect for Israel and the Jewish People. This was truly a prophecy come to life.

The longest journey begins with the 1st step. And that first step is to stand straight & walk tall, clothed in Midot & Mitzvot, secure in our role as G-d's treasured nation.
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