“A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph (Exodus 1:8).” If the enslavement of the Jewish people had been decreed from Above, what difference would it have made if the new king had known Joseph? Why did Pharaoh warned his people about a “future” increase in the Jewish population, when such an increase had already occurred? Pharaoh’s major concern should not have been the departure of the Jewish population but their attempting to take over the country!
Pharaoh realized that when nations contend with one another one or more of four causes may decide the outcome: 1) National unity; 2) clear support by supernatural forces; 3) superior intelligence by one of the parties involved; 4) physical superiority by one party over the other.
When looking at the Jewish people, he realized that they possessed all these attributes. They were united, as indicated by the use of the word “nation.” Since Pharaoh referred to them as the Children of Israel, he clearly was aware that these people enjoyed Divine assistance. As soon as they had come to Egypt the famine had ceased. They were physically superior to the Egyptians on a man-to-man basis, “vaYa’atzmu.” They were extremely intelligent, “Rav,” as used in Lamentations 1:1, “Rabati baGoyim.” (Alshich haKadosh)
Pharaoh understood that one of the most potent weapons the Children of Israel had against him was their unity. When we pray in the concluding blessing of the Amidah for peace, we are praying for the peace that comes from unity, the unity that gives us the strength we need to deceit our enemies.
We should have Kavanah when praying for peace that it should be not just inner peace, but the peace that comes with unity; the peace that empowers.
This can also be used as a Kavanah when reciting the Shema and declaring God’s Unity: We pray that God’s Unity will permeate us, so that our unity will reflect His, and will empower us to thrive and stand up against all destructive forces.