Thursday, February 02, 2006

BO I:The Purpose Of The 400 Year Golus


During the bris bein habesarim, HKBH promises Avraham that his children will be strangers in a foreign land for 400 years. Interestingly, which land this will be in is never mentioned. It seems that all that was being promised was some form of golus. The specifics of that golus, the how, when and where was not determined at that time. In fact, according to one p’shat we see that the golus was actually split into two parts. The first 190 years took place in Eretz Cana’an from Yitzchak’s birth until Ya’akov went down to Mitzrayim. The last 210 years were spent in Mitzrayim. The question is why was Mitzrayim chosen? If part of the 400 years was spent in Cana’an then why couldn’t all 400 years be spent there?

I would like to suggest that this question is actually the gemara’s question in Nedarim 32a. The gemara asks “Why was Avraham punished and his children enslaved in Eygpt for two hundred and ten years?”. I think that what the gemara is really asking is that ain hachi nami the B’nei Yisroel had to be in golus for 400 years, but why did 210 of those years take place thru being enslaved in Mitzrayim? Let it take place in Cana’an and not thru slavery just like the first 190 years took place. One answer the gemara gives in the name of Shmuel is because Avraham went too far in testing HKBH by asking ‘how will I know that I will inherit Eretz Yisroel’. What is the p’shat in this answer? What is the connection between Avraham’s request and golus Mitzrayim?


The gemara in Menachos 85 says the following:

When Moshe (first) performed wonders in Mitzrayim, two of the most expert witches remarked 'Do you bring straw (to sell) to Aforayim?!' (It is already full of grain - likewise, Mitzrayim is already full of witchcraft.). Moshe replied: One goes to the vegetable market to sell vegetables.

The Netziv (Harchev Davar 7:11) explains p’shat in the gemara that if one wants to sell straw, you can sell it anywhere. This is because people don’t care about the quality of the straw, they just want to buy straw. However, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, people want good quality fruit. If you sell high quality produce, the place where you will sell it for the highest price is in a place that appreciates what good fruit is. People who live in a place that doesn’t understand what good fruit is will not spend top dollar for the fruit because they won’t understand how valuable the fruit really is. The same thing was true with the makkos. The reason all the mofsim were done in Mitzrayim is because it was davka the people of Mitzrayim who could appreciate that the makkos were Yad Hashem and not just some advanced form of kishuf. The gemara says that 9/10 of the world’s kishuf was given to Mitzrayim. Therefore, it was only Mitzrayim, who practiced kishuf par excellance and knew what real kishuf was, who could realize that the makkos were actual nisim and not a form of kishuf. All the other nations would just explain it away as a form of kishuf.


The sifrei machshava ( I think the Maharal talks about this in Gevuros Yisroel) all point out that Mitzrayim was the "kor habarzel" for Klal Yisroel. It was in Mitzrayim that the Jewish people were refined and molded into an am kodosh. The seforim also explain that it was precisely in Mitzrayim that this process had to happen because Mitzrayim was the epitome of a nation that denied HKBH and the antithesis of what the B’nei Yisroel stood for. It was only in such an environment that the B’nei Yisroel could become an am kodosh. As the Ramban points out the main yesod of Yitziyas Mitzrayim was developing a sense of emunah and bitachon in HKBH. This could only be accomplished in the country that stood for the exact opposite of emunah b’HKBH.


Now that we understand what the golus Mityzrayim accomplished, we can answer our question above. The cheit of Avraham was that he demonstrated a “chisaron” in emunah by asking for proof that we would inherit EY. However, this chisaron wasn’t just a chisaron in Avraham. Avraham was the father of Klal Yisroel and his chisronos (and ma’alos) impacted all future generations. Ma’aseh Avos siman Labonim and Avraham’s weakness in emunah was transmitted to his descendants. In order to become the nation that we were supposed to be, we needed to eradicate this chisaron. The only place where we could get rid of this chisaron in emunah was in place that stood for the opposite of emunah. This was in Mitzrayim.
I would also add one more idea. Maybe one can say that this chisaron in theory could have been eradicated by the shevatim without Mitzrayim. It was only when the shevatim were not able to be mashlim the chisaron, that golus Mitzrayim became necessary. (Although I have no rayah’s for this maybe if they hadn’t sold Yosef they could have fixed the chisaron in Eretz Cana’an). This is why the havtacha of golus was so open ended. It was not set in stone how to accomplish the tikun, but rather it was up to the shevatim and the Bnei Yisroel to do it. Once they didn’t accomplish the task, HKBH had no choice but to bring golus Mitzrayim.
Finally, the seforim also say that golus Mitzrayim is the model for our current golus. Just like by golus Mitzrayim there were two options on how to go thru the golus, we also seem to have two options. There is the “b’itta” and the “achishena”. If we are zocheh, we can bring the golus to an end right away. But if we are not zocheh then we will have to wait for the ultimate end when Moshiach will finally come. Let us daven that we should be zocheh to see the geulah b’miheirah b’yameinu.

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