Friday Candle Lighting: 4:30 pm
Shabbat Ends: 5:19 pm
With the Help of Heaven
“And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt…” (47:28)
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a global campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets what the campaign describes as “[Israel’s] obligations under international law”, defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promotion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Voices against the BDS movement claim that it judges the State of Israel with standards different from those used to judge other political situations. For example, Charles Krauthammer wrote: “Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation — is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.” Retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz compares the way BDS proponents “single-out” Israel for its human rights violations with the way Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell defended his decision to impose anti-Jewish quotas in the beginning of the 20th century. When asked why there should be a quota on Jews, Lowell replied, “Jews cheat.” When reminded that Christians cheat too, Lowell responded, “You’re changing the subject. We are talking about Jews now.”
In this week’s Torah portion the quintessential exile of the Jewish People into Egypt reaches its conclusion with Yaakov and all his family firmly domiciled in the Land of Goshen. In spite of all of Yosef’s public service to Egypt, rescuing the country from the ravages of a world-wide famine and skillfully navigating Egypt to a position of unrivalled prominence and power, we learn in the very first sentences of the book of Exodus that “a new king arose of Egypt, who did not know Yosef.” (1:8) Here is the archetypal source of the amnesia shown by host nations to their Jewish citizens: They welcome our skills and industriousness and then turn around and say, “Yeah, but what have you done for us lately?”
What causes this amnesia?
210 years later, when Moshe leads the Jewish People out of Egypt, they were immersed in idol worship. Clearly this did not happen overnight. In fact, from the moment the Jewish People entered Egypt, the effect of the spiritual impurity of that land started its work. Slowly but very surely it took its toll, and the Jewish people started to forget Who it is that helps and guards them.
When we write a letter or an essay or even a list or a drawing, we put an abbreviation of three letters either in Hebrew or English in the top right-hand corner of the paper. We write BS”D, meaning B’sayatta d’Shamaya, which is the Aramaic for “with the help of Heaven”. We declare that everything that we can write, think or create comes only with the help of Heaven.
When a Jew forgets from where his help comes, BS”D will turn into BD”S.