The root of the word Mitzrayim, tzar, means a narrow narrow place. When looking at an Atlas one can see this is not the case; it is geographically vast. When taking a closer look at Mitzrayim, the Torah explains that there was something in the essence of ancient Egypt that brought about a profound constriction of free thinking there. The Pharoh of Yosef’s generation used the famine as a means of exploiting all people, foreigners, people that had money, people that had land, tradesmen. All people sold themselves to him for bread. This is how he gained complete control over the entire commonwealth of Egypt.
The Pharoh “that did not know Yosef” focused on the Bnei Yisrael. His restrictions at first were basic limitations. He executed complete mind control over them. This progressed to the suppression of free speech and his victims became narrow minded. He owned their minds. This happened way before they became slaves. Even with Pharoh #1, when Ya’akov passed away, life carried on, but little by little “Out of Business” signs were put up in more than one realm in the Land of Goshen. The Midrash says that the eyes of the Children of Israel became closed (their mental state of Da’at). Their soul connection began to become obscure. The only real way they were able to survive Mitzrayim (and we know that many perished), was to follow the example of Yosef HaTzaddik and know that the time of descent has in it a kernel of the time of revival. Those who were able to internalize the redemptive light at a dark time were saved. There were even those that saved others, like Miriam who pleaded with her parents to reunite and from that union Moshe Rabbeinu was born. He later used the same remedy and saved the people from being totally swallowed up in the fleshpots. There are modern day examples of such people that are sent on shlichut to teach Torah in far out places to people who have lost their soul connections.
This idea is illustrated in a story told by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who lived over 200 years ago in the Ukraine. The name of the story is “The Turkey Prince”. It is about the son of a King who thought he was a turkey. He took off all of his clothes and sat in a narrow place under the table, like in a coup. He would peck away at bones and pieces of bread, like a turkey. The King was exasperated because none of his advisors could help the King’s son. A sage then came and told everyone to leave the room for an indefinite amount of time. When alone with the “Turkey Prince”, the sage proceeded to remove all of his own clothes and then sat down under the table, next to the prince. He pecked away at the scraps of food. The prince then asked, “Who are you?” The sage replied, “Who are YOU?” “I am a turkey!”. “I am also a turkey!”. They sat around together for quite a few days and became the best of friends. One day, the sage pulled out a shirt and put it on. “What makes you think a turkey can’t wear a shirt?” The prince said, “Yeah, you can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” After a while the sage put on a pair of pants and applied the same principles. One day they were completely dressed. One day the sage said, “What makes you think you can’t eat good food and eat with silverware and still be a turkey!” Finally, he said “Why hang out in so narrow a place, let’s sit AT the table!” and he continued this way until the “Turkey Prince” was completely cured.
There is a famous saying, “It is easy to take someone out of galut (exile), but difficult to take the exile out of someone.” Most people do not know to what extent the slanted opinions of media are substituted for facts. Most people believe in the “pure sincere care” of their government. Most people are happy to live comfortably and be brain dead. In order to “suck up” to the exile that butters their bread, they intellectualize away without Da’at, without the soul connection to the kernel about to blossom into redemption anyway, regardless of what they think. They are eating crumbs under the table in a narrow narrow place. It is our duty to try and be like the sage. As we sit in that narrow narrow place and know what door we came through, we can open doors for others. This is giving life. This is Vayechi.
This Torah is dedicated to Henrietta Pere, z”l who raised her family with the love for torah and the Land of Israel. May her soul rest in peace.
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith