In a shiur given over in honor of Shemini Atzeret 5781, Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi shlit”a deliberated on the important question of why our greatest ancestors had to go through such harsh suffering, with the lion’s share of them having to sit in prison over the course of many years.
The words of Rabbi Ben Artzi which we bring here were said after an introduction in which he explains why all the Tzaddikim who were an aspect of Mashiach had to go through periods of difficult concealment [from the world]. Yosef HaTzaddik at a young age was distanced from his father and family and sat twelve years in prison. Moshe Rabbeinu, who grew up far away from his family, in the end, needed to flee from Egypt and there, by Yitro, sat in prison for ten years. Rabbi Ben Artzi continues, mentioning the suffering which King David went through, as well as Shimshon HaGibbor. At the end of his words, Rabbi Ben Artzi concluded, “All true Jewish leaders went through this suffering.”
These are his holy words: “With all the kindness and goodness that Yosef HaTzaddik did, in spite of saving himself and the entire Jewish people, the Ribbono Shel Olam comes and puts him in prison for ten years. Could such a thing happen? How can this be? He didn’t do anything!
“These are the calculations of the Creator of the World in order to prepare him for that time when Pharaoh would need him. Hashem put him into prison, closed him off for ten years, and gave him phenomenal powers, whereby anyone who would dream, [Yosef] would interpret it for him [correctly]. He gave him an angel which would always guard over him. Anyone who came [near] would be struck by the angel.
“Hashem preserved the quality of Yosef over ten years so that he wouldn’t spoil, so that he would stay as he was – Yosef the Hebrew. With everything that he went through, he remained in the end Yosef the Hebrew who wouldn’t forget his father. If he continued being in Potiphar’s house, he would have married an Egyptian woman, he would turn into Yosef the Egyptian, G-d forbid. However, he went to prison [and] told everyone, “I’m Yosef the Hebrew, my father abandoned me.” He would tell them stories, interpret for them dreams. He had another two years to wait after he interpreted the dreams of the Chief Baker and Chief Butler.
“He remained another two years [in prison], because he needed another two years to strengthen his power. That’s how [Hashem] released him – his time arrived, and he went out to the light of day. His time arrived to be the King of Egypt. He’s going to be the King of Egypt, second to Pharaoh, which is like 99% the King of Egypt, [only] the throne of Pharaoh is above him. The time arrived…until then Hashem hid him.
“King David, what happened with him? Hashem hid him in a desert. He walked in the desert with sheep. He would come home once a month…this isn’t someone who goes to work at 8 and returns at 4… When David’s time came to be anointed, Shmuel HaNavi suddenly arrives and anoints King David. When his time arrived, he was hidden, hidden in the desert with animals, [so that] he wouldn’t see the modern world in his time, so that he wouldn’t spoil or they wouldn’t marry him off to someone who wasn’t fit for him, so that people [wouldn’t] say that he wasn’t Yishai’s son, that, G-d forbid, his mother performed an “exercise” with her maidservant. But David was certainly Yishai’s son…until the time arrived when Shmuel anointed him with the horn, there were many years outside of his house and the time hadn’t arrived. He didn’t even have a thought that he was the one.
“Also Yosef didn’t have any thought that he was going to be king in Egypt. Also Moshe Rabbeinu until around the age of 20 was is Egypt. If he continued to be there, he would spoil, because he redeemed [Israel] only when he was 80. He would have married an Egyptian woman, would have Egyptian children. He already wouldn’t be the ‘Man of G-d.’ Therefore, Hashem made him flee Egypt after he learned leadership there…Hashem made him flee from Egypt.
“The Midrash tells what he went through in the desert. In the end he came to Yitro with Tzipora, and Yitro made Moshe Rabbeinu drunk…until he put [Moshe] into a pit and there he turned into something totally spiritual. The material abandoned him after ten years in the pit, because his time hadn’t arrived yet. If he hadn’t gone into the pit by Yitro, he would have turned into the king of the entire region. He wouldn’t have known the Creator of the World. He would have forgotten his brethren…[so] Yitro put him into a pit for ten years.
“There in the pit, he screamed and screamed all day. Tzipora gave him food to eat all the time. He was preserved in the pit. This was his time. Tzipora could have taken him out of the pit, but Hashem didn’t let this happen. They just sustained him in the pit. They didn’t know how much time he would need to remain there–a month, two months. And this is how ten years passed. Why should Tzipora take him out? So that her father would kill her. He had powers of sorcery, and she feared him. She thought that Moshe was dead already–why should she take him out?
“Ten whole years she fed him. Such the Creator of the World wanted — from there he came out anew. All those years he cried and prayed to Hashem.
“Or Shimshon HaGibbor when he went out to the world. He was also an aspect of Mashiach. The angel came to speak to his mother and father. They didn’t know what is going on — and Shimshon HaGibbor came from them in great concealment — the savior of Israel, who came to redeem the Jewish people.
“And all the leaders [of Israel] were like this, most of them — what they know about them, they know about them…”
Listen to Rabbi Ben Artzi’s words in Hebrew below: