This Shabbos we read Parshas Shemos. In the Parsha we read of the subjugation of the Jewish people by their Egyptian oppressors. The Torah tells of a miraculous phenomenon that occurred. “And just as they (the Egyptians) would oppress them (the Jews), the Jews would multiply and spread out”. (Exodus 1:12) The Torah tells us that although the Egyptians planned to control and diminish the Jewish people, Hashem caused the opposite to occur, and in fact their numbers increased.
If we examine the numbers of Jews who lived at the time of the Exodus, we find something truly amazing. The smallest tribe other than Levi at the time had 30,000 men over the age of 20. Yet, the tribe of Levi had only 8,000 men aged 30 and over, and only 22,000 males aged one month and over. Clearly, there is something strange here, as the numbers of the Levites did not even reach half the number of the other tribes. Why was this?
Nachmanidies tells us that we have to look at the population growth of the Jewish people from when they came to Egypt and the time they left. He explains that this could not have been a result of natural population growth. To go from the number of seventy to the nation of a few million in such a relatively short time was not possible uner normal circumstances. Rather, it came as a result of the special blessing bestowed upon us by Hashem. “And as they (the Egyptians) would oppress them (the Jews), the Jews would multiply and spread out”. Hashem watched over us and made sure that the more the Egyptians bothered us and oppressed us, the more we flourished and increased. This blessing corresponded directly to the suffering that was incurred upon each tribe. Our Sages tell us this in the following way: “The Almighty said, the Egyptians say maybe the Jews will increase. While I say they will increase!!!!”
While most of the tribes were subjugated by the Egyptians, the tribe of Levi was not. Therefore, as much as the Levites never had the pain of slavery, they also never had the special blessing of growing in such a miraculous way. Therefore, explains Nachmanidies, their numbers in the desert never even came close to the numbers of the other tribes.
The lesson we are taught from Nachmanidies is very clear. While we certainly always want things to be as easy as possible, we have to realize that when things are rough, there is a reason for it. The Jews who went through the pain of the Egyptian slavery may not have realized at the time that they would have the tremendous blessing of such large families given to them. When we have a hardship we must realize that there is a Director to what is happening, and that one day we will see the way this was the best thing that could have happened to us, and very possibly the source of the greatest blessings in our life.