Benzi’s latest “Behind the Flames” column in Matzav HaRuach:
The Exile – A Punishment, Not A Prize
The last verse in this week’s portion, Vayigash, as the excitement comes to a head when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, describes the nature of acclimatization of the Jews to Egypt: Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied in it greatly. The expression “they acquired property in it” requires an in-depth look, since it would have been enough to say “and Israel settled in the land of Egypt, the land of Goshen, and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly”, and as we know, the Torah way is to be concise; if so, why did the Torah see fit to add the expression “and they acquired property in it”?
The “Kli Yakar” explains this magnificently: that this entire verse comes to accuse the children of Israel, who lived there as strangers (i.e., temporary) that they sought to be residents there (i.e., permanent), instead of where they were destined to live… so this verse accuses them of seeking to hold on to a land that’s not theirs… and they planted such deep roots there that they did not want to leave Egypt, until Hashem had to take them out with a strong hand. And those who did not want to leave, died during the three days of darkness.
In other words, the moment the children of Israel turned the exile, which is essentially a punishment and supposed to be temporary, into something permanent, that it was correct and preferable in their eyes to “acquire property” there – HaKadosh Baruch Hu imposed more punishment on them.
The precious and powerful words of the ‘Kli Yakar’ cannot be read without dealing with their significance for today: From the moment that normalization between Israel and the United Emirates led to making direct flights between the two countries, Jews of all persuasions have been escaping from Israel and streaming into Abu Dhabi and Dubai – Charedim, National Religious and secular.
The advancement of Israel’s status to a leading, strong country in all areas among the nations of the world via international agreements, is something important that should be welcomed (of course, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of Israel’s national interests – Jewish sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and on the Temple Mount, a strong hand in the war on Israel’s enemies, etc.). But the mass exodus of tens of thousands of Jews from the “desirable land” (Israel), for as luxurious a holiday as possible in the Exile – does not contribute to the advancement of Israel’s national status and resilience, but creates a Chilul Hashem unprecedented in scope. And as if that weren’t enough, just last week the newspaper Yediot Achronot exposed how the Emirates have become an outlet for dozens of Israeli consumers of prostitution, who make the long trip to the Gulf states only to satisfy their desires. Chilul Hashem on top of Chilul Hashem.
Jews, let’s not turn the punishment into a prize, and the prize into a punishment. The Land of Israel was given to us as a gift by HaKadosh Baruch Hu, but residing and staying there are not just a right. They are an obligation. Our history teaches us that whoever is disgusted with the “desirable land” – the desireable land gets disgusted with them. We must not forget this. Shabbat Shalom.
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