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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Passover Story, Jewish Slaves, Nothing Like Pre-Civil War America

a very typical depiction of what is known as Jewish slavery in Egypt

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago I posted a series of articles about the true meaning of the Hebrew word חרות HERUT.

חרות Cherut/Herut is Not Freedom!

Guest Post by Atara Snowbell on חרות Herut

In a sense this is a continuation of my quest to properly understand the Hebrew terminology and not get it confused with modern, or more recent history, sociology, anthropology and philosophy.

It has always seemed that people, when growing up in New York and here in Israel, have made some confusing and most probably totally inaccurate image of what both "series" were.

black slaves hard at work

That's because both in Hebrew and in English the same word is used for the status of both, slaves and עבדים avadim. The lack of choice and personal freedom may have been very similar, but their status and how they became slaves were totally differnt.

I had tried to explain that to my neighbors at our weekly Shabbat class, the shiur nashim, many of you have read about. Please remember that the black slaves in America and other parts of the world were human beings who had been (or their parents/grandparents etc) rounded up and captured like animals from their native Africa and then sold as "work animals" to those looking for servants/workers etc. Because of their dark, unfamiliar color and the fact that they had been captured in the jungle, the "white men" considered them as trainable apes who were non or sub-human. And that is one of the reasons the discrimination against them continued long after the American Civil War when it became illegal to own a human being.

In Biblical Egypt the Jews were not slaves in that sense. The history of how they arrived in Egypt is well-known. During a time of famine, Jacob's children and grandchildren accepted the generous offer of the Pharaoh of the time to move lock, stock and barrel to Goshen, a very fertile area in Egypt, because Pharaoh's Viceroy was Jacob's son Joseph. As explained in the Bible, after a few decades "there was a new Pharaoh who didn't know/remember Josef" and didn't remember/recognize the promise/contract that had been made with Jacob way back when.

The result was more like Hitler's antisemitic laws that discriminated against Jews and forced them from their homes in pre-World War Two Germany. Life in a Concentration Camp, or especially a Forced Labor Camp could be considered more like the Jewish slaves in Egypt during the time of the Bible.

I will end this here to give you some food for thought and sincerely appreciate your comments about it.

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