The Midrash says on the verse: "A new king arose over
Egypt" (Shemos 1:8): "The Rabbis opened with this
verse: `They betrayed Hashem for they begot strange children;
now a month shall consume them with their fields'
(Hoshea 5:7). When Yosef died, they voided the bris
milah. They said: `We shall be like Egypt . . . ' Since
they did thus, HaKodosh Boruch Hu turned the love that
the Egyptians had for them to hatred, as it is said: `He
turned their hearts to hate his nation, to plot against His
servants' (Tehillim 105:25). Thus, it was fulfilled in
them that which is written: `Now a month (chodesh)
shall consume them with their fields' (Hoshea 5:7)
— a new king (melech chodosh) — who rose
up and decreed against them new decrees" (Midrash Rabbah
Our teacher the Beis HaLevi comments on this midrash.
One should ask the question: How could such a holy
generation, who were only one generation removed from the
holy shevotim, void the mitzvah of bris milah?
It is a mitzvah with thirteen sealed covenants, and it was
the unique mitzvah that separated them from the rest of the
bnei Noach. How did they come to the point of voiding
Furthermore, the Beis HaLevi asks: Why did the posuk
in Tehillim call the bnei Yisroel "His
servants?" The gemora says that the term, "Your
servants," implies tzaddikim without sin
(Sanhedrin 47). How could the title "His servants" be
reconciled with voiding the bris miloh?
The Beis HaLevi explains that bnei Yisroel certainly
performed the bris before the enslavement and
afterwards, as the Yalkut writes (Parshas
Beshalach): "When the people of Israel circumcised their
sons, the Egyptians said to them: `Why are you circumcising
them? Be like us and you can alleviate the difficult
subjugation.' The people of Israel answered: `Did our
forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov forget their Father
in Heaven that we should forget Him?' "
This demonstrates that even during the period of subjugation
they performed the bris miloh. If so, why does the
Midrash say they voided the mitzvah of miloh?
Furthermore, why were they called tzaddikim if they
indeed voided the bris miloh?
In fact, the bnei Yisroel had a tradition that they
would be subjugated in Egypt for four hundred years. After
Yosef died, they understood that the years of subjugation
were approaching; the golus would begin soon. They
began to fear the golus and worried about what the
future held in store for them. Who knew how the Egyptians
would treat them and their sons for such a long time?
Therefore, the bnei Yisroel devised a plan to bring
themselves closer to the Egyptians, so as not to appear so
separate from them and so that their sons would not appear
foreign to the Egyptians. They thought that if they took
actions to appear more similar to them, the hatred would
decrease and the two peoples could be friendly. Seemingly,
they had every logical reason to think this plan would
The main difference between the bnei Yisroel and the
Egyptians was the bris miloh. Since these events were
before the Giving of the Torah, the only mitzvah the bnei
Yisroel had more than the gentiles was bris miloh.
Therefore, the bnei Yisroel decided that immediately
after the bris, they would pull the skin of the
orlah until it was no longer recognizable that the
child had been circumcised. Thus, they could fulfill the
mitzvah according to the technical requirement of Torah law,
but still not be separate from the Egyptians because their
children would be indistinguishable from the Egyptians.
They did not want to completely nullify the mitzvah of
bris miloh. Rather, as the Midrash wrote with
careful precision: "They voided (heifeiru) the bris
miloh. They said: `We shall be like Egypt . . . '" Their
intention was to remove the difference between the Egyptians
and themselves. Therefore, the Midrash used the term
"heifeiru," they voided, instead of "bitlu,"
they nullified. This implies they only wanted to uproot the
matter from this point and on, after the miloh had
already taken place in actuality.
In order to save bnei Yisroel from mixing with the
Egyptians, HaKodosh Boruch Hu created a hatred against
them in Egypt, as it is written: "And they were disgusted
because of the children of Israel" (Shemos 1:12). The
simple explanation of this verse is that the Egyptians were
so disgusted by the bnei Yisroel that when they saw a
Jew they were disgusted with themselves.
All this occurred not as a punishment to the bnei
Yisroel because they sinned, for they actually did
circumcise their sons. Rather, it was because HaKodosh
Boruch Hu guarded His people and wished to insure that
they would not assimilate with the Egyptians.
Following this explanation, the Beis HaLevi also explained
the verse: "And I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your
blood, and I said to you, `With your blood, live,' and I said
to you, `With your blood, live'" (Yechezkel 16:6).
"With your blood" refers to the blood of the Pesach sacrifice
and to the blood of the bris miloh. It is precisely
because you are "wallowing in your blood" that you shall
live; the blood of the bris miloh that separates you
from the Egyptians is the means by which the bnei
Yisroel will live. (See the Beis HaLevi Parshas
Shemos for all of his wonderful words).
In truth, we have seen during the long exile of the Jewish
people — especially in the last generation of the
Holocaust — that in precisely those places where there
was the greatest assimilation, the evil and punishments began
against the Jewish people. In every place that the Jewish
people were exiled, the moment they began to draw close to
the gentiles and try to be like them the storm winds began to
blow and evil decrees were instituted against them until they
were forced to leave.
We are still in exile. Although we reside on the Holy Land,
we are in a bitter and terrible exile. The seforim
kedoshim have written (see Beis HaLevi Parshas
Vayishlach) that there are two types of exiles. This is
demonstrated from the prayer of Yaakov Ovinu when he feared
meeting Eisov: "Save me, please, from the hand of my brother,
from the hand of Eisov" (Bereishis 32:12). Since
Yaakov said "from the hand of my brother," why did he have to
add: "From the hand of Eisov" — he had only one
The answer is that when Yaakov learned that Eisov was coming
towards him, he knew that there was no escaping from one of
two alternatives. Either Eisov will wage war with him and try
to kill him, or he would be appeased and would want to dwell
together with him in peace and brotherhood. Yaakov feared
both of these alternatives, as it is said: "Yaakov became
very frightened, and it distressed him" (Ibid. 8). He
was frightened lest he be killed, and he was distressed lest
Eisov draw close to him.
Yaakov was actually more fearful of the possibility that
Eisov would want to be friendly with him in brotherly
companionship than he was afraid that he would behave as the
wicked Eisov and attempt to kill him. For this reason Yaakov
prayed first: "Save me, please, from the hand of my brother,"
and only afterwards: ". . . from the hand of Eisov."
To our misfortune, we have both types of exile today. On the
one hand, the Jewish people are in a situation of danger
among the antisemitic nations who seek to destroy, slay, and
On the other hand, we are in exile in a state whose leaders
seek only to be like all the other nations, and whose entire
goal is to eradicate Torah from the Jewish people. They only
want us not to be different from any other nation: just as
they all have a state, land, and a language, so should we.
And just as the nations are free of any yoke of Torah and
mitzvos, so too they want to cast away Torah.
They say to us in the manner of the Egyptians: "Why are you
circumcising them? Be like us and you can alleviate the
difficult subjugation." Join us to be a nation like all the
others and you will relieve your children of the hatred we
bear. They say: Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest
those that learn Torah increase.
Not that learning Torah should be obliterated, G-d forbid. It
is only out of concern for our welfare, as it were. They are
only `concerned' that those who learn Torah should be
occupied with earning a living for their households. Because
if not, there will be poverty and starvation, R'l.
This all occurs under the banner of: "Come, let us deal
shrewdly with them, lest they increase." (But they do not
know that Hakodosh Boruch Hu says: You say, `Lest they
multiply.' But I say: `So will they multiply!') Thus, they
ask us to be more open and to just try to understand their
way of life, as if they were not interested in influencing
End of Part I