“… and they were disgusted because of the Children of Israel.” 1:12 Exodus (Shemot)
I read this and instantly began to cry. I mean, I know I’m premenstrual. Knowing doesn’t always help, however. And it’s not necessarily always the culprit… it could just happen to coincide with something else awful. Of course, it could just be PMS.
But here’s what I was thinking, as I was crying: Why? Why were the Egyptians disgusted? Was there some new story about someone’s daughter being raped or a botched wedding plan with a stand-in bride? Did the Israelites piss someone off? Or was it really just the fact that they grew, they multiplied, and would not be kept small?
My hormone induced mind does what most women’s does, I think, and it began to draw connections.
Isn’t this related to the issues currently in the Gaza Strip and Israel? Bad blood, for unclear reasons. Factions on both sides wish the others would just go away. And what do the ones in power do?
“The Egyptians enslaved the Children of Israel with crushing labor. They embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks….” (And suddenly I have a taste for charoset.)
I’ve been talking with a lot of different people about the recently violence in Gaza and Israel. (I say them separately like a wish: May we each have a home.) My personal Middle East peace plan requires Israel to develop, support and care for the ones lofting rockets and missiles at them. We can’t pretend we’re not related. We’re family, like it or not. Whether you think we’re all descendants of Abraham or you think we’re all human beings, we’re family. And we have responsibilities to each other. We are not separate, two distinct peoples fighting without history and without bonds. Mother – child or warring cousins, I don’t know. I dare say the power dynamic will shift and change between many relationship paradigms. It all depends on who has the power. And right now, I believe the power is in Israel’s hands, really. And I believe that to retain that power – as I wish Israel would – then Israel must wield it wisely. And to be honest, I’m not old enough to know if it’s being wise or not, but I sense it’s becoming not so brilliant.
But I digress. Back to more fascinating topics, such as “How is it that someone could not like me?” Which is where my mind went next, when it turned back to the essential phrase “they were disgusted.” I’ve been in that position, personally. Young, too young to confront the disgust of someone I was supposed to trust, to rely on. Vicious, twisted and angry is the action from a disgusted position of power. Another’s will inflicted upon you, just to watch you writhe. Why? What did I do, except exist?
Were the Egyptians somehow insecure about themselves? About their standing? Maybe their philosophy was at stake, and watching the vast hordes of reproducing Israelites freaked them out. Like some white people I know when they talk about how there will be more Spanish-speaking people in the US after so many years and such and such. Their eyes get wide as saucers and they clutch their alligator logos. “And most of them are Catholics.” Shocking.
Rashi references the rabbis that came before him, saying that they believed the word for disgust, ya-ku-tzu, come from the word for thorn, kutz, indicating that they were a thorn in the Egyptian’s eyes. (I think we say “thorn in the side” now, but Rashi’s from 12th century France, what does he know?)
And what do you do when you find yourself in the role of thorn?
Yep, I cried. I wailed and cried. I covered my face and my nose knotted up and my tongue folded in and I cried and cried until I coughed for air.
How? How do you make yourself so small that you don't hurt others? And should you?