Seeing as so much of our liturgy recalls the Exodus from Egypt—even the blessing after eating bread recalls it—it's vital we understand what went on during that torturous yet miraculous time.
Intriguing Observations about Bnei Yisrael & Erev Rav
There are eirev rav who have become greater than us.
There is no question that we have talmidei chachamim and tzaddikim, famous roshei yeshiva in our history who are descended from them.
We have among us more Egyptians than we have of any other race.
Very interesting, no?
Rav Miller acknowledges that we lack the ability to trace the lineage to see who descended from Egyptians & who descended from the 12 Tribes. But the original Egyptian descendants certainly exist!
Likewise, he notes that many Bnei Yisrael did NOT leave Egypt.
With these 2 observations, he presents an intriguing twist:
- Many Egyptians left Egypt with Bnei Yisrael, primarily BECAUSE of the 10 Plagues, and even sincerely said na'aseh v'nishmah (we will do and we will listen) at Har Sinai.
- At the same time, many Bnei Yisrael did NOT leave Egypt.
So you have non-Jews who converted because of the 10 Plagues, but Jews who did not do teshuvah despite the 10 Plagues.
And, in contrast to common belief, Rav Miller states that the Bnei Yisrael who remained in Egypt were not actually wicked, but only called reshaim (bad) in contrast to those who left.
If those refusers were around today, they'd be our most respected frum Jews.
So those who did actually leave were quite exceptional.
The Erev Rav Elite
The original Erev Rav consisted of the "intellectual aristocracy" of Egyptian nobility.
Actually, we see this today with the elite of American society. So many marry Jews! Especially the millennial generation. It's weird. Some even seem to convert (though with many of them, their commitment seems lackluster compared to the many sincere converts we've all encountered & according to what basic halacha requires; many don't even go to a real rabbi for "conversion") But I digress...
Is this partly why so many Erev Rav today (as predicted by Chazal) aim for the highest echelons of Jewish society, both politically & religiously? Are they trying to reclaim their former status?
Anyway, these Erev Rav people gave up lives of luxury & prestige to follow Bnei Yisrael into the Midbar (desert wilderness)...all because of the 10 Plagues' display of Hashem's Mastery.
The Egyptian intelligentsia discussed every plague with incisive analysis.
So why didn't Paroh (Pharaoh) do the same?
He did, actually. He just came to different conclusions.
The Paroh Paradigm
And Paroh assumed that Moshe Rabbeinu predicted it by analyzing the Nile beforehand.
In other words, Paroh concluded that Moshe Rabbeinu (whom Paroh knew to be very intelligent & educated) examined the Nile beforehand, realized what the red-producing bacteria were about to do, then based on that, told everyone the Nile would turn to blood.
Likewise with the Plague of Frogs. Frogs already existed in the Nile. So what's the big deal about a sudden infestation of them? It can happen. Also, sometimes a hail of frogs occurs from the sky, right?
So with each Plague, that's how Paroh confronted it, which Rav Miller details further on pages 7-8.
With this, Rav Miller segues into the great contradiction within modern society, which carefully analyzes the great miracles of every human tissue & of nature, yet dismisses all these wonders as happenstance.
And in answer to the question of why Hashem no longer performs Biblical miracles for us today, Rav Miller says: He does!
We simply don't view them as such.
But with our advanced technology (also miraculous, BTW), we can see into so much of the natural workings and truly see Hashem's Hand in it all—just like the Egyptians could see into the Plague of Frogs, etc.
Why Doesn't Hashem Cause a Mass Frog Invasion of Hollywood Studios?
It would be nice if they did, but they don't. (About the frogs, I mean, not the Hudson River.)
Why don't they?
Because (pages 9-10; emphasis mine):
The secret of everything in the world is that it should be a secret!
That’s why Adam Harishon came after creation; the first six days Hakodosh Boruch Hu created all the phenomena by supernatural means.
There were no seeds, and Hashem caused the trees to appear. Grass appeared! Rivers appeared! Frogs appeared!
That’s the teaching of the Torah and you have to get any other pictures of the origin of life out of your head.
Everything came yesh meayin, something out of nothing, and the ‘nothing’ was Hashem's word.
And then, after the six days of Creation, that’s when Adam came.
When Adam first opened his eyes, he saw a ready-made world.
When we insist on seeing Hashem's Hand in a life seemingly devoid of Hashem, we reap tremendous reward for this.
We create for ourselves huge merits!
It's especially challenging today, so we get especial credit.
To help us overcome this momentous challenge, Rav Miller delineates on pages 11-14 the Divine aspects of daisies, rosebushes, apple trees, and dandelions.
Also, make sure to check out the Practical Tip on page 15.
And though this dvar Torah didn't come out and say it, the implication here is that the Yisrael majority who stayed behind did not analyze the 10 Plagues properly (according to the principles outlined in this dvar Torah), but the Erev Rav did.
And that made all the difference.
Very chewy food for thought...