(yad va)Shemot

The parashat of the week tells the story of the first Holocaust attempt in history. Shemot, the second book of the Torah does not mean Exodus, but rather Names because it begins with the list of descendants of the sons of Israel since their settlement in Egypt. Several centuries after their arrival on the territory, a new pharaoh takes power over the country who does not remember Joseph and does not know the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob either. He is a pharaoh who cared little for the genealogy of the Jewish people and could not remember the origins, ancestors and benefits of the chosen people.

In the course of modern history, Franz Joseph of Austria was a similar kind of pharaoh to the one who reigned during Joseph’s time. He also recognized values in us that he used to his advantage while granting us great freedom and respect rarely experienced in our history. Like Joseph, our modern-day ancestors enjoyed many social benefits, freedom, and power with which they could serve the interests of the Habsburg Empire. The situation was identical during the Babylonian exile, when the Jewish community was none other than the flagship of the Babylonian society of the time. There are always some people who do recognize in us reliability, ingenuity and a qualified workforce.

Then there is often a pharaoh who may be Egyptian himself, or Austrian in this case, but who forgets Joseph’s memory. He persists in refusing to admit that there was once a Jewish people without whom his empire and his people would perhaps no longer exist, or at least in a much less glorious way. The Jew is welcome only as long as his extraordinary faculties can be used to strengthen their interests, because everything they touch is blessed and fruitful. But as soon as the fruit ripens, the gardener is rejected, slandered and attacked.

It was his own jealousy that caused fear in Pharaoh’s mind. Indeed, Israel had multiplied to form a people more numerous and more powerful than the Egyptians according to his words. He saw in this proliferation a threat to the empire and especially to his throne. He could not tolerate the idea that there was a foreign entity within the country, which in addition thrives better than the natives. He finally decides to exterminate them. He first tries to carry out his evil work by using midwives and eventually sends his soldiers to eliminate all male newborns. He tolerates girls, but sees boys as a threat, as they can become soldiers who can become allied with the enemies of the empire. He thinks that we must be careful and get rid of them in time. Here we see unfounded fears and accusations such as those we are constantly targeted with. These slanders are not only wrong, but the reality is often quite the opposite. Pharaoh accuses Israel of treason against the state, while it was precisely because of Joseph that the country is still standing. Joseph showed peerless loyalty to Egypt even though he was not even Egyptian. In addition, it was this same Joseph who strengthened the power of pharaoh by putting all the lands of the country under the control of the crown. He was the one who saved the people from famine and strengthened Pharaoh’s power. Then the descendants of Joseph and his brothers became the artisans and builders of the empire. They even cultivated the lands of Egypt.

Pharaoh is tormented by two antagonistic feelings. He wanted to get rid of the Jews, but also wanted to exploit their skills and to make them work. Perhaps he too would have liked to assimilate them so that they become Egyptians, just as the Austrian emperor mentioned above tried to do. However, assimilation would have precisely dissolved all the qualities in us that were so precious to them. The situation was similar in the cases of Luther, Hitler and many others. This is how Pharaoh declares before Moses that he does not know his Lord. In other words, he simply declares: We do not want you or your people or your God, but just the benefits we can draw from you all.

As believers, we often experience similar situations. When we are in covenant with the Lord, our buried values revive and become visible to everyone. The world wants this treasure and intends to use it for its own purposes. They have great respect and admiration for people like us. Indeed, our faith prevents us from committing sin, we respect the laws of Elohim and those of the world, which makes us extremely reliable people less inclined to deceive anyone. They know that they can trust us and moreover, that our actions are blessed by the Almighty. They respect us because they need us. Then after a while, jealousy begins to torment them from the inside, because they feel not being part of the People of the Lord. In their eyes, we do incarnate judgments and are like spiritual mirrors. It is exactly the role that has been given to us by the Lord. What they need is our profitability, the rest does not interest them. They do not chose the same path as ours, because that would imply too much renunciation in their lives and thus they reject any submission to the Eternal. We end up being thorns in their eyes. All that remains for them in order to appease their conscience is to bring us back to Egypt and try to assimilate us again. In short, they want to convince us to deny our covenant with the Eternal in order to kill us in spirit. In the best of cases, this project fails and comes the relief of the Lord in one form or another, which may also be accompanied by plagues and signs.

zeev shlomo 20/12/13