“‘When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched.’” — Ezekiel 29:7
This Torah portion for this week is Va’eira, which means “and I appeared,” from Exodus 6:2–9:35, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 28:25–29:21.
While this week’s Torah portion described the downfall of Egypt during the time of Moses, the Haftorah is taken from the book of Ezekiel that described the downfall of Egypt in his time. It is also a powerful message for us today.
Let’s put this story into context. During the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy, Israel was about to be captured by the Babylonians. Israel had already become a vassal state to the emerging Babylonian empire and was obligated to pay taxes to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Egypt was in a similar position. It had lost many territories to the Babylonians and the enemy showed no sign of letting up.
Egypt and Israel shared a common enemy and that led them to form an alliance. However, when the Babylonians came to attack Israel, Egypt looked the other way. Egypt deserted Israel in her time of need. The prophet Ezekiel described it this way: “When they [Israel] grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched” (Ezekiel 29:7).
Ezekiel came to scold the Jewish people for placing their trust exclusively in the Egyptians and not in God. At the same time, he lashed out at the Egyptians for deserting Israel and prophesied their decline. This was both a punishment for Egypt and a reminder for Israel: “Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help” (Ezekiel 29:16). Egypt’s weakened state served as a lasting reminder to the Jews that it was foolish to trust in lowly man; only God Almighty was deserving of their trust — and ours as well.
Today, Israel continues to struggle between trusting alliances with countries and having faith in God. But a video posted during an Israeli offensive several years ago – Operation Pillar of Defense — indicated that Israelis are finally learning. In it, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are dancing and singing as they waited at the entrance to Gaza. The words that they sang went as follows: “We are believers and the sons of believers, that there is no one on whom to rely, except for our Father – our Father in heaven!”
Friends, let us learn what some of Israel’s greatest soldiers already know. When it comes to the uncertainties in life, there is only one source of strength and one source of security: the Lord our God. Let us trust in Him and rejoice in our faith. For He will do miracles for us – just as He did in Egypt long ago.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President