Chullin 58 - 64
The Lions Roar
"When a lion roars who does not fear; when Hashem the L-rd speaks who cannot prophesy? (Amos 3:8)
This comparison of G-d to a lion served the Roman emperor as a tool for teasing Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania. Whats so great about being like a lion, he challenged him, when a warrior is capable of slaying a lion?
The Sages response was that the lion to which the prophet referred was an awesome creature that roamed the jungle of Bei Iloui. Despite the Sages warning that he could not see this mighty lion the Roman insisted. Rabbi Yehoshua then prayed to Heaven for the lion to leave his jungle and begin heading for Rome. Terrible things happened in Rome with every roar of the lion as he came closer until the emperor finally begged the Sage to pray for the creature to return to its jungle.
Maharsha explains that the Roman vaingloriously imagined that there was no force more powerful than him, and if the Hebrew G-d were only a mere lion, he, a mighty warrior, was capable of overcoming them. Summoning the mighty lion from his jungle to terrorize Rome with his roars was the Sages opportunity to demonstrate the power of G-d in a tangible way. It not only vindicated the prophets words about the fear instilled by the lions roar but also served as an expression of G-ds power of retribution as the prophet pointed out in an earlier passage (ibid. 3:6) "Can there be a disaster in the city which G-d has not caused?"
It is interesting to note that Maharsha adds a unique interpretation to the passage quoted at our outset. "Who cannot prophesy," he writes, refers not only to the inability of the prophet to not relay to the people the word of G-d but also to the inability of the people hearing his prophecy to relate to it without the same fear as they do the lions roar.
Yosef, the Torah tells us, carried out a massive population transfer of the Egyptian people in his capacity as virtual ruler of the country. After purchasing all the properties in the land from their owners in exchange for grain to feed them during the famine that had struck Egypt, "He transferred them from one city to another, from one end of Egypt to the other" (Bereishet 47:21).
On the surface Yosefs motivation for doing this was to demonstrate to the citizens of Egypt that they no longer owned their land and it was now the property of the king. Since it is unlikely that the Torah would record this simply to show the political acumen of Yosef, the gemara discerns that there must have been a hidden agenda and the question is raised as to what that agenda was.
"In order that the Egyptians should not refer to his brothers as foreigners" is the answer given in our gemara and the one which Rashi cites in his commentary on Chumash.
Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntshitz (1549-1619), in his commentary on Chumash "Klei Yakar", suggests that Yosefs concern was that the Egyptians might some day turn on the Hebrews in their midst and exploit the fact that they are foreigners as a sign that G-d is not interested in their welfare because He has not given them a land of their own. By placing the Egyptians themselves in the position of being landless foreigners in their new locations, Yosef was able to forestall such a claim that might expose his brothers to harm.
The Klei Yakar offers two other explanations of his own for Yosefs move. One is that someone who has never been a foreigner himself is incapable of empathizing with the difficulties of a foreigner. Yosef therefore wished to expose the Egyptians to this experience so that they would be more sympathetic to the Hebrew foreigners in their midst.
Another approach is based on the fact that Yaakov and his family had firmly established themselves in Goshen at Pharaohs invitation. What would happen, however, if some future king would make a search of the historical records to check on ancestral right to property and could discover that the Hebrews had no ancestral roots in their cities? Yosef therefore made sure that none of the residents of Egypt would be living in cities where they had ancestral roots and Yaakovs descendants would be safe.