Divrei Torah

PARSHAS BO 5778

We read about the final three plagues that afflicted Egypt. After each plague, the Pharaoh was stubborn and refused to free the Jewish people even after seeing the hand of G-d destroy his country. Finally, after the killing of the first born at midnight – plague number ten – the Pharaoh relented. He was broken. So, he went to look for Moshe and Aharon in the middle of the night. He found them and told them, “get up and get out from my nation, also you, also the Children of Israel, and go, serve G-d as your words.”

Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky raises a question. Here, the Pharaoh used an unusual term. Before subjugating the Jews, the Pharaoh stated, “behold the nation of the Children of Israel is more and mightier than we are.” Now, that he was freeing the Jewish people, the Pharaoh once again calls them “the Children of Israel”. However, in between, we don’t find the Pharaoh or his people using the name “Children of Israel” when referring to them. He referred to them, in other ways – “Israel, the nation, the people” – but not “the Children of Israel”. Why not? 

Rabbi Kaminetzky explains that the Pharaoh refused to call the Jewish people by their name – the Children of Israel - because he did not want to give any regard or honor to them. He wanted them to feel like nothing. In his mind, the entity of the Children of Israel did not exist - much like the Nazis who gave people numbers instead of calling them by names. They also wanted the Jewish people to not feel like human beings. 

Our present enemies in and around the State of Israel call it the “Zionist entity” but refuse to call it Israel because they refuse to give it any recognition. 

On my Federation trip to Israel last year, somebody from the Federation mentioned that he has dealt with Christian groups who show their support for Israel. Many of those Christian groups refer to the country as the “Holy Land” – also refusing to call it Israel. There is much significance in that reference because it shows their true character and intentions. This person from the Federation told them that the term is unacceptable and if they want to deal with the Federation, they must use the name “Israel” and not “the Holy Land”.

There have been people who came to this country and changed their family name so as not to sound Jewish. They were either embarrassed by their Jewish name or felt they could go further in life if they did not sound Jewish.

Our Rabbis teach us that one of the reasons the Jewish people merited redemption from Egypt was because they did not change their Jewish names. They were proud of what it represented. “Children of Israel” – “Jewish people” is our proud symbol. We must live up to it and show it high regard. The Pharaoh, the Nazis, wanted to destroy it and the Palestinians still try. We must show them that our name is significant – it is G-d given.