“Pharaoh’s 3 Point Action Plan for Jewish Non-Continuity”
- Backbreaking labor
- Kill the newborns in a secret way
- Kill the newborns in a non-secret way
Since Pharaoh’s end goal was to rid Egypt of its Jewish future, why did he not skip straight ahead to step #3? As the dictator of Egypt with the power to do as he wishes, why bother to go through the trouble of the first two steps?
To understand why, let’s first take a step back and understand the psychology behind Pharaoh’s first two ideas; they were meant to destroy the hope of the Jewish people, as once you destroy the hope of a people, they won’t have a future anyway. Consider backbreaking manual labor; once one gets stuck in a slave mentality, s/he doesn’t have the ability to see past the present to consider the future. On a teeny tiny comparative level, we know that when we are overwhelmed with work and day-to-day responsibilities, we are not able to deal with anything regarding the future, as we are only able to tread above water long enough to deal with the present (incidentally, this may partially explain the high crime rates in low-income neighborhoods; crime pays in the present. This may also explain why many stressed physicians who preach a healthy lifestyle, consume an unhealthy diet of caffeine, sugar and stimulants).
Furthermore, the fact that what the Jews were making produced zero value, as the cities that they built in Egypt would be quickly buried in quicksand, hurt even more. Another bad example for context; consider you are working on a 6-month business plan, knowing full well that your proposal will not even be looked at by management; how would you feel about that project? Pretty hopeless, right?
Nonetheless, this strategy of hard slave labor didn’t work, as Rashi states (Shemot 38.8) that the women would use mirrors to seduce their husbands to have children and reproduce, thereby reinstating hope for a Jewish continuity and future.
Pharaoh’s second plan was to kill the newborns in a secretive way, in that the midwives would kill the newborns upon birth. For those who have unfortunately had one or have known someone who have had a stillbirth or lost a child on delivery, understands very well the wide-ranging traumas that it causes. Pharaoh’s plan however, didn’t come to fruition, as the midwives wouldn’t go along with this plot and were rewarded by Hashem for their efforts. Their efforts caused the Jewish people to continue having children and to keep the hope of a Jewish future alive. Left with no other choice, Pharaoh resorted to the killing of Jewish children in an outward way, paving the way for Moshe to step in and ultimately bring the Jewish people out of Egypt, where they received the Torah at Har Sinai.
Whether as a source of inspiration, a motivator for positive change, or as a way to spiritually connect, hope remains an integral part of the Jewish faith. For the Jewish nation, hope is also closely tied to the concept of redemption and the belief that one day, all of the world’s suffering and injustices will come to an end. Just think of the 3 times a day prayer, that Jews for thousands of years have prayed for the return to Jerusalem with the building of our Beit Hamikdash.
Throughout history, the Jewish people have faced numerous challenges and hardships, but they have always managed to endure and rebuild, thanks in part to the hope that has sustained them. Just think of the Syrian-Greeks outlawing Shabbat observance, learning Torah and circumcision which meant to crush the Jewish spirit. The Jews would defy the orders and keep that hope for a better future alive (and invent the dreidel games in the process). Purim aside, so many of the holidays that we celebrate today is to thank Hashem for the hope that he continued to shine upon his Chosen People.
This idea of Tikvah (hope) has kept the Jewish people strong for centuries, and it continues to be a source of inspiration for Jews around the world today. It is this hope for a better future that has played a vital role in the resilience and perseverance of the Jewish people.
Keeping this idea that hope is vital for continuity in mind, the next time you notice your fellow Jew going through a challenge, will you be the one that inspires them and takes them up a level? Or will you be the one who dashes their hopes and dreams? Because if so, how are you any different than Pharaoh?
Be kind, be optimistic and be giving, to help others create a future as bright as yours.