Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pesach aka Passover - Much More Than Matzah

עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים
Avodim hayinu liParoh baMitzrayim
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt

As has been for thousands of years, the Jewish People can be found all over the world.  Our Biblical time in Egypt wasn't the first and certainly not the last time when a majority of the Jewish People have found themselves exiled from the Holy Land, promised to us by G-d in the days of Avraham Avinu, Our Forefather Abraham.

So why do most people look at and stress the beginning and end of the line above

The important issue isn't that we were slaves in Egypt.  How can a Jew in New York, Paris, London, Rio, Tokyo or Kiev think that the important thing we're celebrating on Passover is that we're no longer slaves in Egypt? 

The crucial issue here is that we were slaves to Pharaoh.  And slavery is a lot deeper than building the pyramids with primitive tools.  The Jewish People were totally dependent on the Egyptian services, food, etc which had been provided to the slaves.  That was the basis of the complaints during the post-Exoduus period, which can be read in במדבר Bamidar aka Numbers.  I've been studying that book in a Matan course with Atara Snowbell for  almost two years.

Post-American Civil War, we like to think that slaves are abused by their owners, but that isn't the real case.  Slaves are property of businessmen and others, and the owners aren't stupid. If they were to abuse their slaves, they'd destroy their investments.

Except for the worsening of work conditions as depicted in the Biblical stories in early Exodus, the Jewish slaves in Egypt were kept well-fed and well cared for.  It would have had been foolish for the Egyptians to have treated them differently.

Davka, those good conditions, the easily accessible food etc, that made the Jewish People more and more dependent and loyal to their Egyptian rulers.  They were slaves loyal to their owners and even more so to Pharaoh.

I decided to write on this topic after reading the Tablet discussion on the Israel lobby in the United States.  Not for the first time, I'm terribly disturbed by the loyalty and trust the Jewish People have to foreign rulers, and that includes the United States and whoever is President at the time.

As Jews, wherever we are, our chief loyalty must be to G-d and His Torah.

The message of any lobbying must be that a strong secure Israel is the only defense against world terrorism and world destruction.  There should be no sentiment, only the fact that international terrorism is strengthened every time Arabs are encouraged to establish a state in the Land of Israel on Land that is held by the State of Israel.

It's a fiction, an oxymoron to claim that there should be a "two state solution," that Israel can be safe and secure with a sic Palestinian state.


goyisherebbe said...

See Rav Kook, Igrot Ha-Ra'ayah, letter no. 89. He discusses the fact that "wage slaves" can be worse off than chattel slaves since the former can be hired for a pittance and then dismissed when they are no longer useful, whereas a real slave is the responsibility of the master. The Torah laws of treatment of slaves have all sorts of safeguards. If you injure a slave permanently, he has to go free and then becomes a full fellow Jew whom we all have to take care of. Compare the Roman law of patria potestas, the absolute power of a father over a son, including killing him without the intervention of the state. It turns out that in the Roman Empire it was better to be the slave of a despised Jew than a son of a noble Roman!

Hadassa said...

While looking for a source from Gil-White to back what I wanted to write, I found an earlier Shiloh Musing post with a comment from goyisherebbe mentioning said historian. http://shilohmusings.blogspot.co.il/2006/12/stoicism-is-not-heroism.html

I can't find the exact source on Gil-White's site.

Hadassa said...

The site is Francisco Gil-White's www.hirhome.com.