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Why did G-d treat the Jewish people differently to the Egyptians?


At the time of the splitting of the Red Sea, the angels of Misrayim (Egypt) claimed that there was no difference between the Jewish people and the Egyptians. Just as these worshiped idols, so did those. The Holy One Blessed Be He replied that he does not judge one who committed a transgression deliberately, the same way as one who did it accidentally.

The question is how 'Abodah Zarah (idol worship) can be considered to be accidental. Even a small child who has a basic understanding would know that it is forbidden to serve wood, stone or animals. Hakham Yoseph Hayyim, 'a"h, in Ben Ish Hayil, explains it with the following parable.

There was a king who whenever he got so angry at a person that he would decide to kill him, always had a particular angry expression at the time he decided to kill him. All the servants and employees in the palace were familiar with his facial expressions and the meaning of the looks in his eyes. One day, the king was sitting with important dignitaries from many different countries and the servants served the abundant selection of delicacies.

One of the servants, who was serving hot soup from a large bowl, shook a little and some of the soup spilled onto the king's royal clothes. The king was furious and gave this young servant the angry look which made it clear to all the servants that he had made up his mind to kill this young servant.

What did the young servant do? He took the bowl of soup and poured it on top of the kings head in the presence of all the foreign dignitaries and king was drenched in soup from head to toe. The kings fury reached its limits and he told the servant that he would execute him in a cruel way. But he said, "First let me ask you why you did this instead of begging me for mercy when you spilled a few drops on me".

The servant replied that he saw the anger in the eyes of the king when he spilled a few drops and that he had made up his mind to kill him and said that had the king killed him for no reason, it would be a disgrace for the king in the eyes of the inhabitants of the world. He told the king that the reason he poured the rest of the soup over the king deliberately, was that nobody would now blame the king for his actions. The king was pleased with this answer and told his servant that since he was willing to sacrifice himself for the honor of the king, the king would now forgive him completely.

The same applied to the Children of Israel. The Egyptians made their lives a misery through enslaving them, throwing the babies into the Nile and slaughtering them for Pharaoh to bathe in their blood. And they were the people of G-d, the descendants of the holy Patriarchs. The nations of the world would question why G-d seemingly abandoned His people and they were being trodden underfoot by the Egyptians, because the nations of the world did not realize that the slavery was for the purpose of purifying the Jewish Nation to be in a fit state to receive the holy Torah. The result would have been a desecration of G-d's holy Name in the world

This is why some of the Jewish people, even though they did not believe in idolatry, publicly served idols in order to prevent the nations of the world from even thinking that G-d would desert the Jewish people or to criticize Him. Just like we saw with the young servant who dared to pour soup on the head of the king in order to save the king's face in the eyes of the world. And that is why G-d judged them as having served idols in error.

Tizkoo Leshanim Rabboth
Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe.

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