In describing the relationship between Jews and Egyptians, our Parshah says "And they [the Egyptians] were as thorns before the children of Israel."1 Why as thorns?

One commenter offers two explanations. The first explanation is that the Egyptians, observing the miraculous birth rate of the Jewish people, 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 itself, so, too, the Jewish people wandered easily into Egypt but once ensnared found extrication a painful process.2

Weakness and Aggression

The two explanations seem to conflict with each other. The first describes Egyptian timidity while the second describes Egyptian aggression. Yet this pattern is often evident: aggressive and violent people are often driven by latent weakness, by hidden fears, by an inner sense of insecurity.

As long as Egypt felt secure in her own position, she was content with her Jewish guests. Only when she felt threatened did she take aggressive action against them.

Reflection

When a friend or spouse falls into an unusual pattern of aggression we must not respond in kind. We must 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.