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FORCES OF NATURE

by Stuart W.    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"And the children of Israel left Egypt armed. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him..." (Exodus 13:18-19).

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"And the children of Israel left Egypt armed. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him..." (Exodus 13:18-19).

The Kli Yakar, a 17th century classic Torah commentator, questions the juxtaposition of these two verses. The first one speaks of the fact that the Jews were armed, whereas the next one switches to a seemingly unrelated topic, that Moses took Joseph bones on the trip out of Egypt. What is the connection between the verses?

The Kli Yakar sheds some light on the matter. He quotes a verse in the hallel prayer that we recite on Jewish festivals. The verse states, "The sea saw and fled," referring to the splitting of the Red Sea. What did the sea see? It saw the fleeing of Joseph when he was being pursued by his masterís wife to try and make him commit adultery with her.

Joseph was sold by his brothers to Egypt and became a slave to a VIP family there. He was very handsome, and his masterís wife took a liking to him and tried many times to cause him to have adulterous relations with her. However, each time Joseph went against his base nature and refused to sin, although it was extremely hard for him. His masterís wife was very beautiful and had a lot of power over Joseph as a result of her husbandís stature in Egyptian society. She threatened him many times with what would happen if he did not listen to her. Still, each time, Joseph trusted in Hashemís providence and controlled his desires, refusing to be with her even though it eventually got him thrown in jail.

Based on this episode, says the Kli Yakar, we now know the reason for the juxtaposition of the verses quoted above. "The Jews left the land of Egypt armed." What were they armed with? They were armed with the merit of Joseph. Moses knew that taking Josephís bones was integral to the survival of the Jewish people, for when they reached the sea, they needed a reason for Hashem to make the sea split for them. Then the sea "saw" Josephís bones, and just as Joseph conquered his nature and did not sin with his masterís wife, so too did the sea go against its nature and stopped flowing so Josephís descendants and relatives could go through on dry land. For the pursuing Egyptians, however, who were immersed in the sins of sexual immorality, the sea reverted back to its original nature and drowned them.

One lesson from this explanation is that our actions make a difference. Joseph could have given in to his desires and committed adultery and no one would have known. Furthermore, this would have saved him from jail. However, Joseph knew what is right, that there is a G-d above who has forbidden these actions. He refused to compromise his beliefs in order to gain temporary pleasure that does not last. And because of his heroic fortitude, the entire Jewish people were saved at the sea. This is the power of doing what is right in Hashemís eyes.

Hopefully this message will help us whenever we are feeling down and we think, "What do I do that makes a difference?" We must realize that each and every time we choose to do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong, we are fulfilling Hashemís purpose for the world. We can build His world, or Heaven forbid, the opposite. It all depends on us.

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