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    Remedies before the malady – Sh’mot

    Slavery in Egypt, from a Dutch bible, 1728

    The Hebrew slaves groaned because of the servitude the Egyptians had imposed on them (Ex. 2:23).

    In some ways this was the worst oppression our people ever suffered. It was the first persecution in Jewish history and there was no precedent against which to measure it.

    Unlike later oppressions, the people as a whole was under threat – on other tragic occasions part of the nation was safe elsewhere. It was a frightening persecution; there seemed no avenue of escape and therefore no future.

    Yet the sages have a principle that God never sends a malady without a remedy. (They even facetiously suggested that this is why Gittin, dealing with divorce, comes in the Mishnah before Kiddushin, dealing with marriage).

    Here the remedy is indicated by a rabbinic comment on Gen. 46:28, where Jacob sends Judah ahead to Goshen l’horot, literally “to point the way”. Rashi links l’horot with Torah and says that Judah was told to set up a bet midrash in advance of the family’s arrival.

    How is this a remedy to a malady? When Jews are able to immerse themselves in Torah, they can rise above persecutors and persecution.

    In case anyone asks how there could be Torah study before Sinai, there is a rabbinic tradition that Shem and Ever had set up batei midrash where Jacob had studied Jewish morals and ethics (Rashi and Midrash B’reshit Rabbah on Gen. 25:27).

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