GOOD MORNING! Last week we dealt with the anomaly that the Jews have been the most hated and persecuted people throughout history, yet have paradoxically been a Light unto the Nations and have helped civilize the world -- and that both phenomena were prophesied!
We also dealt with the Torah prophecy that the land will be barren and only produce when Jews lived there though in the natural course of the world, the land should have produced for subsequent dwellers. And now to our final prophecy in the "Seven Wonders of Jewish History" -- that the Jews will be dispersed to the four corners of the world to eventually return to the Land of Israel...
7. RETURN FROM EXILE
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be exiled from the land and that they would return to the land: "And it shall come to pass when these things shall come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have placed before you, you will take it to heart amongst all of the nations where God has scattered you; you will return to the Lord your God and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you today, you and your children with all of your heart and with all of your soul. Then the Almighty will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you; and He will return and gather you from among all of the nations where he has dispersed you. If your dispersed ones will be even at the ends of the heavens -- from there God Almighty will gather you and from there He will take you. And God your Lord will bring you to the land that your fathers inherited and you shall inherit it and He will do good for you and make you more numerous than your forefathers" (Deuteronomy 30:1-5).
No other people have ever gone into exile and survived for thousands of years to come back to re-establish a national homeland. The return of the Jews from exile to the Land of Israel was nothing short of a miracle!
What does it all mean?
When we look at Jewish history, we see a history where the Jewish people have defied the laws of nature and the laws of history! We have survived and impacted this world though we have been thrown out of our land not once, but twice! We have impacted the world perhaps more than any other people in history -- the concepts of the value of human life, universal education, justice and equality, the importance of and goal of world peace (as opposed to glorifying war), the importance of a strong stable family as a basis for a moral foundation for society, individual and national responsibility for the world -- though we were beaten, killed and exiled from one nation to the next. Though few in number and spread to the four corners of the earth, we survived as a people, never assimilating into anonymity. Even our land, the Land of Israel, defied the laws of nature, only fertile when the Jewish people inhabited it.
Coincidence? Good luck? A roll of the dice? Perhaps -- except that each and every phenomenon was prophesied and predicted in the Torah hundreds and thousands of years before the events. Does it make you think that perhaps something is going on here? That perhaps there is a special relationship between the Almighty and the Jewish people?
The Almighty, the Jewish people and the Torah are intertwined. In the past 3,300 years there has been effort after effort -- from within as well as from without -- to redefine and redirect our people. Each and every one has failed. If you wonder why, then perhaps the time has come to read the Torah and find out (I highly recommend the Artscroll Stone edition of the Torah) -- and perhaps also Permission to Receive and Permission to Believe by Kelemen (all are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242). The Torah is not only our heritage, it is the game plan for the Jewish people and the world!
Torah Portion of the Week
Shemos, Exodus 1:1 - 6:1
This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real -- check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at aish.com/sem/wtj -- the seminar will transform the way you view yourself, your people and your history. It's spectacular!)
Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah tells us, "And Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that entire generation" (Exodus 1:6). Why is it important for us to know that the whole generation has passed on?
The Ohr HaChaim explains that the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians occurred in three stages: First, Joseph died and the Israelites lost their power. Second, the bothers died. As long as even one of the brothers was alive, the Egyptians still honored them. Third, everyone from that generation died. Until that happened -- as long as the members of the first generation were alive -- the Egyptians considered them important and were not able to treat them as slaves.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the Mirrer Rosh Hayeshiva, commented that there are two aspects here. One is on the side of the Egyptians. They were unable to treat the Jewish people as slaves as long as they considered them important. The other aspect is on the side of the Jewish people themselves. As long as they were considered important and worthy of respect by themselves, the Egyptians were not able to treat them in an inferior manner. Only when they personally considered themselves in a lowly manner could they be subjugated by others.
This, said Rav Chaim, is the way in which a person's sense of self impacts his destiny -- first the person feels inferior and guilty, then he feels a sense of worthlessness and then he is easy prey.
What is the antidote? A person should strive to internalize elevated feelings about himself. When a person has those feelings, he will be careful to not do anything that will lower his level of self-esteem. If feelings of self-respect and importance are an inherent part of a person's self-image, others will not be able to exploit one's vulnerability through lack of self-esteem.
CANDLE LIGHTING - December 20
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Miami 5:17 - Guatemala 5:20 - Hong Kong 5:26
Honolulu 5:36 - J'Burg 6:40 - Los Angeles 4:30
London 3:35 - Melbourne 8:23 - Mexico City 5:44
New York 4:13 - Singapore 6:46 - Toronto 4:25
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Self-esteem soars in direct proportion to forgetting the "self' part
-- Eileen Hartley-Wigginton