It is perhaps fitting that the day on which a new, dramatically different administration takes over the reins of power in the United States, is the day before the reading of Parashas Shemos which tells us: Vayokom Melech Chodosh Al Mitzrayim Asher Lo Yoda es Yosef. A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef. (Shemos 1:8)
Rashi and other Meforshim, commentators, explain that obviously, everyone in Egypt knew who Yosef was, but this king made himself as if he didn’t know Yosef – he made believe Egypt owed nothing to Yosef’s people; he ignored historical fact and turned his back on Yosef’s contributions to the salvation and survival of the Egyptian people.
Stop for a moment to think of the mindset of the Jewish people at that moment in time. They were part of a privileged class, they were doing very well and feeling very comfortable. It took a while for the new reality to sink in. The Gemora (Sotah 11b) tells us they passively allowed themselves to become slaves, so comfortable were they in their surroundings. They didn’t `get it’ until it was too late. I would suggest they relied too heavily on the politics of the day, on their elevated status, assuring themselves no one would do anything drastic to harm them.
When you read this, the new president will have been in office for a few hours or days. There is a certain amount of euphoria in our community as public statements and personnel choices from the new administration seem to bode well for the interests of the Orthodox community and the broader Jewish world, especially in Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, many are sunk into depression over what evil the new leader will bring to bear. They see the world as coming to an end, R’L.
They are both wrong. There may be real grounds for optimism, but a word of caution is in place. I am reminded of what occurred more than twenty years ago, upon Benjamin Netanyahu’s first being elected Prime Minister. Those who identified strongly with the goal of an increasing Jewish presence throughout all of Eretz Yisrael, greeted the election with making a Kiddush in shul on Shabbos morning, to celebrate. It wasn’t long before there was great disappointment over developments that were not consistent with campaign rhetoric.
Those who view recent events with great pessimism would do well to reflect back upon other recently elected officials in different countries around the world. Many performed quite differently than what was expected. People were `pleasantly surprised’ on numerous occasions.
The message we need to take to heart is – Al Tivtichu B’Nedivim. We cannot place unlimited trust in humans and especially political leadership. Hashem runs the world, and it is to Hashem that we need to turn our efforts and interest. Rather than endlessly dissecting this political maneuver or that administration spokesperson’s comments, we would better spend time davening for Hashem’s salvation, learning Torah in order to generate zechusim for Klal Yisrael, doing chesed to help our brethren in a real, tangible way. The real power is Hashem’s. Man, even the most powerful man on earth is but a pawn in the hands of the Almighty. He has the power to make any leader be the vehicle for good or bad for the Jewish nation. The only meaningful variable is our behavior – do our actions make us worthy of Hashem’s intervention for the good, or are we liable to negative consequences, R’L.
Our children will be swept along by our interest in or disdain for the new administration and possibilities that may ensue. We owe it to them to share our appreciation for our democracy and the principles upon which this nation was founded, balanced by an understanding that ultimately – …the heart of a king is in the hands of Hashem… (Mishlei 21:1 – and see Yalkut Shimoni)
In the zechus of imbibing the proper approach ourselves, and teaching our children the proper Hashkofah about how the world really runs, may Hashem grant our people years of tranquility and prosperity and the arrival of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily and in our day.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and most enjoyable vacation,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann