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    In Sefer Bereishis, HaShem gives Avraham a
    glimpse into the future. He is told of an exile
    that his progeny will experience. How they
    will be “ger – strangers in a land, v’avadum –
    they will be enslaved, v’inu – they will be
    oppressed…” (Bereishis 15:13).
    Generation later, the words were realized.
    “Yosef, all his brothers, and that entire
    generation passed.” (Shemos 1:6). The end of
    an era. A new king arises. A pharaoh who
    didn’t want to know of Yosef, nor recognize
    all the good which he had done for Egypt.
    That animosity extended to all of the Jewish
    people. It came in stages, escalating from bad
    to worse. Bnei Yisroel were made to feel like
    strangers in the land. They became enslaved
    to the Egyptians and experienced pain and
    Shlomo HaMelech teaches us in Koheles,
    “Ain kol chodosh tachas hashemesh – there is
    nothing new under the sun.” The narrative of
    life in Egypt has been repeated countless
    times throughout the ages. As the Chumash
    tells us, “They filed the land…” Our nation
    grows and prospers. We make valuable
    contributions to our host country. We have a

    positive effect on virtually every aspect of
    life. Yet, we are made to feel like strangers….
    and worse.
    Ger yiheyeh – strangers they will be. Was
    this not the story of the Holocaust? Strangers
    in the land. Stripped of all civil liberties. Jews
    had to wear a yellow star, emblazoned with
    the word “Jude”. Libraries, schools, public
    transportation, all off-limits to Jews. Jewish

    businesses forced to shut down. Jewish-
    owned stores looted and destroyed. Strangers

    in the land.
    V’avadum – and they will be worked. Stage
    two. This too was part of the Holocaust. So
    many of our people taken to labor camps,
    forced to live under the most horrific
    conditions. How ironic, that the sign over the
    entranceway to Auschwitz reads “Arbeit
    macht frie – Work makes one free”.
    Echoes of the words of the Egyptians, who
    spoke to our ancestors with guile. Saying that
    that if the Jews were truly loyal citizens, they
    would voluntarily work for the good of Egypt.
    A work that became slavery.
    V’inu – and they will be tortured. Words that
    became a reality in Egypt. Words that aren’t
    enough to describe the horrors of the
    In this week’s parsha, Va’eira, we learn of

    the plagues that HaShem sent upon
    the Egyptians. Rabbi Samson
    Raphael Hirsch teaches that the
    plagues were not haphazard
    happenings. He cites Rabbi
    Yehuda’s teaching in the Haggadah,
    who grouped the ten plagues into
    three categories, with the plagues
    in each group corresponding to the
    three stages of Anti-Semitism and
    suffering experienced in Egypt:
    Estrangement, Enslavement,
    The plagues affected the
    Egyptians only, forcing them to experience a
    taste of the misery and pain that they inflicted
    upon the Jewish nation.
    Group one – D’tazch:
    Dahm – blood. All the waters of Egypt turned
    to blood. The Egyptians couldn’t even drink
    the water — feeling like strangers in their own
    Tz’fardayah – frogs. Forced labor is a loss of
    pride. With frogs croaking day and night,
    entering their homes, and even the palace of
    the king, jumping onto the pharaoh himself,
    the Egyptians were made to feel diminished,
    helpless, leading to a loss of self-esteem and
    Kinim – Lice. The Egyptians bodies were
    covered with lice. True bodily affliction.
    Group Two – Adash:
    Arov – Wild Animals. Once again,
    strangers in the land. The Egyptians were
    confined to their homes, unable to venture
    outdoors due to the fear of roaming animals.
    Dever – Pestilence. To the Egyptians, their
    horses and cattle were their pride. This
    plague brought death to their livestock.
    Another loss of pride.
    Sh’chin – Boils. Their bodies were covered
    with painful boils. They suffered immensely.
    Group Three – B’Achav:
    Barad – Hailstones. Once again, Egypt
    was in lockdown. The entire population
    forced to remain indoors, taking shelter
    from the giant and dangerous hailstones
    that were raining down upon the country.
    Arbeh – Locusts. The crops were destroyed
    by swarms of locusts, another loss of
    Egyptian pride.
    Choshech – Darkness. A darkness so
    black, so thick and intense, that the
    Egyptians became immobilized, as if
    chained to the very spot they were in. A
    painful experience.
    And finally, the last of the ten plagues.
    B’Choros – Death of the firstborn. The
    ultimate punishment which finally broke
    the Egyptian spirit. The culmination of the
    plagues, leading to the redemption of the
    Jewish people.
    This coming Tuesday, 2 Shevat, is the
    yahrzeit of my beloved father, HaRav

    Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil zt”l. My
    father experienced first-hand HaShem’s words
    to Avrohom, living through the inhumaneness
    of the Holocaust. He became a stranger in his
    land. He experienced forced labor. He was
    subjected to beatings and much affliction.
    I often wonder (more so as I am getting
    older), how my father managed to always be
    happy, and have the biggest smile on his face.
    To never “lose it”, but always speak with the
    most gentle voice and kindest of words. He
    came to this country after the war as an
    orphan, alone, without family. Yet, there was
    never sadness or despair. To Abba, every day
    was a good day. Every day was an opportunity
    to show appreciation for the gift of life.
    It is now twenty-seven years since my abba
    was niftar. I turned to Psalm 27, and received
    my answer. The secret of my father’s survival.
    The essence of our nation’s survival. To live
    with the words of Dovid HaMelech, “HaShem
    is my light and my salvation, whom shall I
    fear? HaShem is my life’s strength, whom
    shall I dread?… Though an army would
    besiege me, my heart would not fear, though
    war would arise against me, in this (emunah
    – belief in HaShem) I have trust… Deliver me
    not to the wishes of my tormentors… Hope to
    HaShem, strengthen yourself, and let your
    heart take courage…”
    HaShem told Avraham about the pain that his
    children will endure. But He also promised
    judgment and retribution upon their
    oppressors, and for the Jewish people, a life of
    blessings in the future. My father lived his life
    with emunah and bitachon, never looking
    back, and always thanking HaShem for
    enabling him to not only survive, but to use
    every fiber of his strength in a positive way, to
    build a beautiful family, and instill Yiddishkeit
    in countless Jews who were brought to a life
    of Torah and mitzvos.
    We are still in galus – exile, we are not out of
    the woods. We are surrounded by Jew-hatred
    and anti-Semitism. But we too have the faith
    and belief of our ancestors. As we say in the
    Thirteen Attributes, “We believe with
    complete faith in the coming of Moshiach,
    and even though he may delay, we await his
    coming every day.”
    May we all merit to witness an end to the
    exile, and may the words of Psalm 27 be a
    source of strength to all of us.