by Rabbi D. Makover
Equality, Evading Suffering And Pharaoh's Lies
Equal Before Hashem
"And these are the names of the Jews who came to Egypt."
Rashi explains here: "Although Hashem made a head-count of
the Jewish people during their lifetime, He made a further
head-count with their death. This illustrates His love for
them. Like the star, Hashem counts them when He brings them
out and again when He returns them, as the verse in
Yeshaya (40:26) tells us, `Hashem brings out the stars
in a count. He names each one individually.'"
The significance of Hashem counting the population for a
second time here is His wanting to emphasize that He loves
them all. Meor Ho'einayim notes also that the notion of
numbering also implies equality: every item in your list
becomes a number. One number is like any other number. All
the members of Yaakov's family were equal before Hashem, the
reason being that each of them fulfilled the role
(tafkid) Hashem assigned to him and that is what
counts. It does not matter whether the role assigned seems
more glorious to the public or less glorious.
This seems to be implied in the verse (Bamidbar 12:3):
"Moshe was the humblest man on earth." How could Moshe be so
humble? Was he not the most significant man on earth?
One explanation surely is that he realized that since every
man is assigned his role and his duty is but to fulfill that
role, whether I am Moshe or whether I am Yaakov is "random."
For this reason, Moshe assured himself, I am no more than the
Reb Elimelech of Lizensk announced one day: "I don't want to
be Avrohom Ovinu." Why? they asked him.
He replied: "If I knew that Hashem would gain from having two
Avrohom Ovinus, then I might want to be Avrohom Ovinu. But I
see that Hashem made Avrohom into Avrohom and Elimelech into
Elimelech. Therefore, I assume there is no gain to Hashem in
me wanting to be Avrohom Ovinu. So I only want to be
People used to jibe at the darshanim, using the verse
in Yeshaya (58:1) "Shout like a shofar!" meaning a
shofar shouts prettily, like you do. But a shofar, no matter
how much it shouts, will never come to pride. You too may
shout prettily; but all you are is the shofar -- made to do a
Since we are all equal, seforim also tell us not to
feel fear or shame before apparent superiors. (Respect is
another matter.) Shlomoh challenged a sheid called
Ashmedai to prove his strength. Ashmedai replied: "If you
remove my chains, I'll show you."
Shlomoh did this and the sheid threw Shlomoh far off
and then assumed the appearance of Shlomoh, entered the
king's palace claiming to be Shlomoh, and everyone believed
Shlomoh meantime was left to wander. He went from place to
place as a beggar telling everyone he was the king: "I am
Shlomoh. I am Koheles." But people took him for an
After three years, Shlomoh returned to Jerusalem, went to the
Sanhedrin and repeated his claim. The reaction of the
chachomim was to surmise that an eccentric does not
keep repeating the same claim for three years. A man will
only do this for three years if there is basis to it.
They questioned him and asked him to prove his claim. Shlomoh
eventually told them to examine the feet of the sheid
since the feet of a sheid have the form of hen feet.
Sure enough they found out from the queen that her current
husband never took his shoes off. Shlomoh was restored to the
Commentators ask why didn't Shlomoh request the chachomim
to check the body of the sheid early on in his
exile? Why did he just keep repeating, "I am Shlomoh. I am
The answer given is that Shlomoh knew Hashem made him Shlomoh
the King although he could have chosen someone else to
fulfill this role. If Hashem took this role from him, it was
entirely His decision and it remained entirely His decision
to restore it to him. Therefore Shlomoh did not want to push
Similarly, the flight of Dovid Hamelech from his rebellious
son, Avsholom. As Dovid was preparing to leave Jerusalem to
escape Avsholom's hunt, Dovid's men told him to take the
Aron Kodesh with the broken luchos. This Ark
was taken by kings into battle. Dovid, they said, would have
to take the Ark with him in his inevitable battle with
Dovid Hamelech declined, his reason being -- like Shlomoh --
that Hashem deposed him through Avsholom and it was for
Hashem to restore him. He did not want to pretend at this
point that he was the rightful king with the right to take
the Holy Ark and use it.
We may say this is the theme of the sneh, the burning
bush. The bush was dry twigs, but the verse notes, "The bush
is on fire but does not burn up" (3:2). Moshe did not want to
take the assignment of leading the Jews out of Egypt through
fear of becoming proud. The bush didn't burn up because it
knew the power and glory of fire was from Hashem, not its own
achievement. Similarly, so long as Moshe understood that his
powers were from Hashem, that he was one of the minyan,
just one unit in the head-count, he had no need to fear
The miracle of Moshe's staff also indicates this. The rod
turned into a snake and back into a rod to show that they are
the same, just as one Jew is the same as the next.
Since They were Willing to Accept the Hardship, They were
Or HaChaim notes that parshios Vayigash and Shemos
give us another insight into the virtue of acceptance of
suffering, as those we have noted in our previous columns.
Bereishis 46:6 notes that Yaakov "and all his children
(zar'o)" came to Egypt. The next verse (7) reads: "He
brought his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters
and granddaughters and all his children with him to
Or HaChaim asks why does the second verse (7) apparently
repeat the information given in the first verse (6)? Second,
in the second verse "with him" is repeated. The double use
seems to differentiate between the "sons and grandsons"
relating to the first "with him" and the "daughters and
granddaughters and all his children" relating to the second
time it says "with him." What is the reason for this
Or HaChaim tells us that the apparent repetition of the
information tells us that the second verse has an important
message, even if it is not so apparent. The message is in the
two times it says "with him." Each "with him" indicates a
The "sons and grandsons" of the first group went willingly
into exile in Egypt with Yaakov to fulfill the decree
announced in the Bris Bein Habesorim. The "daughters
and granddaughters and all his children" of the second "with
him" delayed and had to be forced to follow on. The second
group, the Or HaChaim notes, is made up of his children,
grandchildren and great- grandchildren.
Or HaChaim goes on that Chazal commented that those who went
with Yaakov to Egypt were spared the hardship of the exile.
The hardship started after they all died. The reason is that
they were willing to accept the hardship. Since they were
willing, precisely this spared them. It was those who were
unwilling who were the first to suffer.
Chazal indeed advise the one who suffers to say aloud: "I
accept my suffering with love."
Pharaoh's Lies: A Reflection of Modern Times
Pirkei Ovos (1:10) tells us: "Don't associate with
government authorities," meaning don't curry favor with the
authorities because when they want you, they'll promote you,
but when they don't want you, they'll throw you out.
"A new king arose who did not know Joseph." According to one
view, this is the same Pharaoh who made Yosef viceroy.
Although Yosef had interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, saved Egypt
from complete famine and ruin, preserved its prosperity and
also turned Pharaoh into its absolute ruler, he decided to
turn on Yosef's kinsmen. He could no longer tolerate the debt
of gratitude due to Yosef. This ingrate was the new
The new Pharaoh wanted to get rid of the Jews. How did he
manage to justify this? When Yosef died, he denied his
We see this, for example, in the Holocaust deniers of today.
The neo-Nazis seek a new legitimacy for themselves. So fifty,
sixty years after the Holocaust, they began to deny it
existed or at least they aver that it was not so bad. Arabs
joined with them because the Holocaust gave legitimacy to the
State of Israel and they wanted to remove this legitimacy.
Ramban (1:10) notes another aspect of Pharaoh's deceit. When
Pharaoh's officers drowned the Jewish children, they did so
furtively and unobserved. If a Jewish father protested to the
king, Pharaoh's response was to agree that the disappearance
of the child was shocking and he would certainly like to
capture those responsible, but the father must find evidence
of what happened.
This phenomenon also has its parallel today. If a government
is responsible for an outrage and afterwards there is a
protest, the response is to open an inquiry. Often the report
produced by the inquiry serves as a pure cover-up. Often it
will pinpoint some of the minor culprits but leave out the
main ones. And so on.
Lastly, we said that Pharaoh was an ingrate. He not only
preferred to forget about Yosef but to rid Egypt of the Jews
completely. Again, how could he justify this? He claimed they
were threatening to take over the country. The Nazi leader
claimed the same thing. The Jews are organizing a world
conspiracy to subvert the world. His evidence? The fictitious
Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Hashem defeated Pharaoh by joining with the Jews. Pharaoh
(5:2) denied Hashem His authority but this of course did not
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