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Shabbat Parashat Bo 5781

Parashat Hashavua: Not Only the Egyptians Paid a Price

Harav Yosef Carmel

Although the main adversary the parshiyot focus on these weeks is Egypt, we will take a look at the Plishtim. The Plishtim, from whom our forefathers suffered for centuries, were descendants of Noach’s son Yefet, originating in the islands around Greece, especially Crete. They came to Eretz Yisrael in a few waves, during the years that Yaakov’s descendants were in Egypt. They are not related to the Plishtim who existed in the time of Avraham and Yitzchak (the new Plishtim conquered the old ones) or to those now called Palestinians. They settled in five coastal cities of Southern Israel, and functioned as an allegiance of city-states. They were a major adversary of Israel until almost the destruction of the First Commonwealth.

This week’s haftara (Yirmiyahu 46:13-28) discusses a great defeat of the Egyptians at the hands of Nevuchadnetzar, who would later destroy the first Beit Hamikdash. This was also the time of the fall of the Plishtim, which, we will see, is related. The following prophecy starts with the dating that it occurred “before Paroh smote Aza” (ibid. 47:1). These Plishtim were defeated twice in close proximity. Before Nevuchadnetzar went down to fight Egypt, he passed through the coastal region of Plishti land and defeated them. The navi referred to this as “it is coming from the north” (ibid. 2). Paroh struck them on the way back from the Battle of Karkamish, after killing King Yoshiyahu in Megido (see Melachim II, 23:29). Thus, even though Egypt was to the south and west, they attacked the Plishtim from the north.

The defeat of the Plishtim is also documented in non-biblical accounts. It appears in the Writings of Herodotus and is found in a letter by the King of Israel, found in the archives of Memphis, Egypt. We will not get into a listing of the scholarly publications which deal with this.

It is impossible to understand the outlook of the prophets without studying the following passage in Tzefanya (2:4-7): “For Aza will be abandoned, and Ashkelon will be a wasteland; Ashdod will be kicked out in the afternoon, and Ekron will be uprooted. Oh, the inhabitants of the coastal strip, the nation of Crete, the word of Hashem will be on you in C’na’an, the Land of the Plishtim, and you will be lost, without anyone living there …”

The cities of the Plishtim were destroyed some 2,600 years ago, and the Jewish Nation has returned to its Land in the past generations. We are not interested in the destruction of our adversaries’ cities. We prefer the fulfillment of the prophecy of Yeshayahu (2:1-3) that the nations will come to the Beit Hamikdash in search of Torah and inspiration from Hashem and  from us. On the other hand, if enemies try to destroy us, they must know that their end could come in unpleasant ways.

At this time of international transition, with potential consequences to Israel, we take the opportunity to thank outgoing President Donald Trump for his outstanding support of Israel and his large part in several political achievements. We wish well to incoming President Joe Biden, and wish him and us that the relationship between our countries will remain strong and fruitful.


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