Israel Forever

For the week ending 27 December 2003 / 2 Tevet 5764

The Problem of Promises

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Promises, promises and more promises.

We live in an age of promises broken as soon as they are made and sometimes even before!

A few days after an Arab terrorist was arrested on his way to blow up a high school in the northern community of Yokneam some of the terrorist organizations meeting in Egypt announced that they were ready to offer a cease-fire in their activities against Israeli civilians within the "green line". The other groups refused to go along with even such a minimal promise and the Israeli government rejected it because such a proposal condones the continuation of murderous acts against soldiers and settlers. There is no doubt, however, that behind this rejection is the suspicion that any such promise coming out of Egypt from terrorists with blood on their hands is absolutely worthless.

In this weeks Torah portion we learn of the price that Yosef paid for relying on the promise of an Egyptian. After interpreting the prophetic dream of the kings chief butler sharing his prison cell, to the effect that he would be pardoned and reinstated, Yosef pleaded with him to speak up for him to be released. Despite his promise to do so the fellow failed to keep his word. In his commentary Rashi cites the midrash which states that Heaven punished Yosef with an additional two years in prison for thus misplacing his faith. "Fortunate is the man who places his faith in G-d," states King David (Tehillim 40:5) "and does not turn to the boastful and the liars." The "boastful" are identified in the midrash as the Egyptians, as personified by that minister of Pharaoh who boasted that he would help Yosef gain his freedom and then let him down.

Todays Egyptians too have been exposed as empty boasters by their failure to unite the terrorist gangs to make even a token overture of ending hostilities. The Israeli government would be wise to continue regarding with great suspicion any promises coming from that direction. Only faith in the promises of G-d will guarantee Israel forever.

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