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Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

A Silver Lining

In Exodus 1:12, Torah describes the way the children of Israel react to the harsh policies set up by the new Pharaoh, who, as the text puts it, “did not know Joseph.” וְכַאֲשֶׁר֙ יְעַנּ֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ כֵּ֥ן יִרְבֶּ֖ה וְכֵ֣ן יִפְרֹ֑ץ “But the more they were oppressed more they increased and spread out.”

There are many ways of resistance for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” in the words of Emma Lazarus. Perhaps, the most intriguing yet natural of them is the silent resistance to evil depicted in this Torah verse. Living one’s life according to the mitzvot may not be seen as a “true” resistance, but it might be no less staunch as an act of open rebellion.

What has driven the children of Israel to this way of life? Or HaChaim comments on this verse expounding on the line from Zohar.

“The Zohar explains that when one has to endure persecution and troubles, the good which may have been mixed with the evil is distilled from the evil joining other areas which are good; similarly, the evil of that mixture joins other areas of pure evil.” 

There is a silver lining in every cloud. The increase of goodness has brought more merits to the people of Israel, including the birth of children. A famous Russian saying goes, “being treated roughly we get tough.”

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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