Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Pharaoh - The Original Anti-Semite!
Published: Monday, January 13, 2020 10:18:51 PM
Number of views: 1233

There has been a rash of anti-Semitic attacks throughout Europe and the U.S.A. accompanied by vicious anti-Semitic tweets. But where did it all begin? The Torah states in Shemot 1:6-8 “Yosef died and all his brothers and that entire generation...And a new King arose over Egypt, who did not know of Yosef.”

My Rebbe, Rav Pam, often discussed the question of how Pharaoh and the Egyptian people, who were very respectful and cordial to Yaakov and his family suddenly became murderous anti-Semites so soon after Yosef’s death. How could the great accomplishments of Yosef as the Viceroy of Egypt, rescuing Egypt from a devastating famine, be so rapidly forgotten? How did the Egyptians become the cruel murdering taskmasters enslaving millions of Jews and drowning their infants in the Nile River?

The Beis Halevi explains that when Yosef and his brothers died, the new generation of Jews felt that the best way for them to survive and thrive in Egypt was to blend into Egyptian society so that they would not stand out for being “different.” Thus, the Jews first disregarded Brit Milah, which marks a physical differentiation between Jew and non‑Jew.

When G‑d saw this, “He turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate His Nation, and to plot against His servants.” (Tehillim 105:25) There arose a deadly, furious reaction from the Egyptians to the attempts by the Jews to assimilate in Egypt and become as one nation with them. This, says Beis Halevi, was the way G‑d forced the matter in order to fulfill the concept of, “I (G‑d) have separated you from all the nations to be Mine.” (Vayikra 20:26) This is also what G‑d meant when He told Ezekiel “As for what enters your minds – it shall not be! As for what you say, ‘We will be like all the nations, like the families of the Earth’…as I live - I, G‑d swear I will rule over you with a strong hand and with outpoured wrath and fury.” (Ezekiel 20:32-33)

My Rebbe Rav Pam always stressed that we see time and again that when Jews attempt to assimilate to the non-Jewish society around them, a vicious and violent backlash occurs, with tragic repercussions. The roots of the Egyptian exile serve as the prototype of all future exiles, and it is only our separation from the gentiles that assures our survival as a People.

The Abarbanel states that this is the way that G‑d assures the eternity of the Jewish People, by forcibly keeping us separate from the gentiles. As soon as we try to assimilate and adopt gentile customs and behavior, there is an vicious and violent Anti-Semitic reaction.

This is what the evil Bilam means “A Nation that MUST dwell in solitude and never to be reckoned among the other nations of the world.” (Bamidbar 23:9)

The saga of Jewish life in Egypt was only the first in a 3300 year chain of gentile reaction to Jewish failure to uphold our separate and unique Jewish identity.

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