We are just a few weeks removed from the Passover Seder and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. During that time the central focus was the exodus from Egypt.
Yet, this is not the dominant theme of Passover alone but one of the most dominant themes of Scripture as well. The Jewish people are often identified as the people whom God brought up from the land of Egypt and HaShem, the God of Israel, identifies himself ten times in the Tanach as “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
The emphasis on the exodus from Egypt was not just to bring attention to the actual event but to show that the God of the universe is directly involved in the fate of the Jewish people. He is not merely a bystander but is actively working in the life of the nation delivering them from evil, providing for their needs, giving them a homeland, and even chastising them when necessary. His relationship is akin to a loving father whose eyes are ever upon his children. After all, they are the “the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
But what about the other nations of the world? Rabbinic tradition numbers them at seventy. Does God care for these seventy as well? Is he involved in their day to day lives? Does he provide for their needs? The haftarah reading for Parashat Kedoshim points to the affirmative:
“Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the LORD. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?” (Amos 9:7)
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments on this verse: “God is active in the histories of other nations. He sends a prophet, Jonah, to Israel’s enemy Assyria, to persuade them to repent and be saved from catastrophe.”  The Prophet Isaiah predicts a day when HaShem will free the Egyptians from oppression in much the same way he did for Israel:
In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt … When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering … they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them … Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:19-25)
God not only refers to Israel as “my inheritance,” but he also calls Egypt “my people” and Assyria “the work of my hands.” Additionally, we learn in the book of Deuteronomy that just as God has given the Jewish people the land of Israel as their inheritance he has also allotted an inheritance of land to all the other nations of the earth: “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God” (Deuteronomy 32:8).
Our Master tells us that not even one sparrow falls without our Father in heaven taking notice. HaShem is involved in the lives and fate of his creatures. While the Bible is centered on the nation of Israel, God is active in the histories of all nations. He chose Israel not just to be an island unto themselves but that Israel would be a blessing to all peoples, spreading the light and knowledge of God to the other nations of the earth. The prophets tell us that after this is the end goal of the kingdom of heaven, the Messianic Era, when all mankind, not just the Jewish people, will know God and worship him alone: “And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9). May it be soon and in our days. Amen.
- Exodus 6:7, 20:2; Leviticus 11:45; 19:36, 22:33, 25:38, 26:13; Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 5:6; Psalms 81:10.
- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence (New York, NY: Shocken, 2015), 197.