This week’s Haftorah is from Sefer Yechezkel–Ezekiel, 28:25-29:21 and acts as a perfect parallel to Parshat Vaeira. The Haftorah begins with Hashem telling Yechezkel that (28:25-26) “When I gather the children of Israel and I have shown Myself through them, they will dwell in their land.” This parallels Hashem telling Moshe in Parshat Vaeira (6:6-8) And I will take the Jews out of Egypt and take them as My nation and bring them to the Land which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.” Even the types of destruction to be brought on Egypt are similar, as Yechezkel talks about the rivers, trees and beasts of the field being destroyed (29:4-5), just as the plagues in Parshat Vaeira affected the water, fields and animals of Egypt. Finally, Yechezkel says (29:9) “And the land of Egypt will be desolate and they will know that I am G-d,” which parallels Hashem telling Moshe in Parshat Vaeira (7:3-5) “I will increase My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt,…And Egypt will know that I am G-d.”
But one thing in the Haftorah that seemingly does not parallel the parsha is when Yechezkel says (29:13-14) “And at the end of forty years, I will gather the Egyptians from among the places where they have been scattered. And I will return the captives of Egypt to the land of Pathros and there they shall be an unimportant kingdom.” Why on earth would Hashem bring Egypt back at all? In Shemot, the Egyptians are drowned in the sea and Hashem does not say anything there about bringing them back. Why not destroy them completely and never let them come back? To address this point, perhaps we can apply something that Rav Nachman Kahana once said regarding an incident with Yaakov. In Parshat Vayetze, Yaakov meets Rachel at a well and when he approaches her, he begins to cry. In explaining why he cried, Rashi tells us that Yaakov was upset that he had no presents to give her, just as Eliezer had given Rivka presents when he met her at the well. The Midrash (Oral Tradition) explains why Yaakov had nothing to give Rachel with the following incident. When Esav threatened to kill Yaakov after the birthright incident and Yaakov ran away, Esav sent his son–Eliphaz–to run after Yaakov and kill him. When Eliphaz caught up with Yaakov, he was reluctant to kill him but he had his father’s command to obey as part of the Mitzvah of “Honoring Parents” (According to Halacha, he had a loophole, because if a parent tells a child to do something which is against the Torah, the Mitzvah of “Honoring Parents” no longer applies. But it seems that Eliphaz’ forte was not in Halacha.) So Yaakov suggested the following: “We know that the Gemarra says that a poor man is considered to be like dead (obviously Eliphaz had more of a forte in Gemarra!) thus, if you take all of my possessions away from me, you can then go back and tell your father that I am dead.” Eliphaz liked this idea and did accordingly, leaving Yaakov with nothing to give Rachel.
Talk about quick-thinking! But then again, what exactly WAS Yaakov thinking? Or better, what was Eliphaz thinking? How did Eliphaz think that Esav would let him get away with the claim that Yaakov was “like” dead because he was poor? In fact, wouldn’t that be considered the ultimate “Chutzpah” which would result in Eliphaz’ violating “Honoring Parents” anyway?! According to R. Kahana, Eliphaz actually did better than killing Yaakov. He could tell his father Esav: ‘If I had killed Yaakov, you would have experienced a moment’s worth of pleasure and then it would all be over. But now that you know that Yaakov is destitute, every day that you imagine him begging on the streets, not having proper clothing, enough food, shelter, etc., you will experience pleasure. So for your purposes, forcing Yaakov to live a humiliating life is much better than killing him!'”
Similarly, Hashem could have destroyed Egypt and made sure that they were never heard of again, but instead Hashem did something better. The Mishna in Taanit (regarding a different topic) uses the analogy of a lion which is captured. Before the lion is captured, everyone views it with awe and exclaims, “How mighty is that lion!” But once it is captured and put into a cage, people come by to look at it and say, “Is that the mighty lion we once feared? Look at it now, it is nothing!” Similarly, Egypt was a powerful world empire which instilled fear into everyone for many years. True, Hashem could have destroyed it, but just think of all the museums which would carry the “Mighty Empire of Egypt” exhibit. Conversely, by forcing Egypt to continue to exist as a downtrodden country, people would be able to pass by and say, “Is that the once ‘great Egyptian empire’? Look at it now, it’s nothing!” Thus, Egypt would experience the everlasting humiliation that it deserved.
(Interestingly, today Egypt has one of the poorest economies of all the Middle Eastern countries. Coincidence? I think not!)