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Home » Passover, Shemot Parshah

Shemot: Insecure Aggression

Submitted by on January 9, 2006 – 4:50 pmNo Comment | 4,928 views

Egyptian Thorns

In describing the relationship between Jews and Egyptians the Torah says “And they (Egyptians) were as thorns before the children of Israel” (Exodus 1, 12) The Kli Yakar offers two explanations. The first explanation, Egyptians observed the miraculous birth rate of the Jewish people and feared that G-d intended to free the land of Egyptians to make room for the Jews just as a gardener would free his garden of thorns to make room for his flowers.

The second explanation is that Egypt acted as a thorn bush to ensnare the Jewish people. Just as a sheep easily wanders into a thorn bush but once inside finds it very difficult to extricate herself so too the Jewish people wandered easily into Egypt but once ensnared found extrication a painful process.

Weakness and Aggression

The two explanations seem to conflict with each other. The first describes Egyptian timidity, the second describes Egyptian aggression yet this pattern is often evident even today. Aggressive, violent people are often driven by latent weakness, by hidden fears and by an inner sense of insecurity. As long as Egypt felt secure in her own position she was content with her Jewish visitors. Only when she felt threatened did she take aggressive action in the hopes of defending her interests.


When a friend or spouse falls into an unusual pattern of aggression we must not respond in kind. We must rather probe the softer vulnerable folds of his/her inner secrets. We may just find a weakness lurking within and once identified, help them to correct the problem.