Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Jews In Egypt

Passover literally means that G-d had to pass over the houses of the Jewish People so that the Angel of Death could kill the Egyptian first born during the 10th and final plague. Why would that be necessary if the Jews lived separately from the Egyptians in their own distinct land? Hashem could have simply passed over the entire land of Goshen. But unfortunately this was not the case. We have previously mentioned that the Jews were in Egypt for 210 years. During that period they were enslaved for the final 116 years with hard labor. During the previous 94 years when things were going quite well for the Jews, they got tired of living in the Egyptian Boro Park section and moved out of Goshen. They moved to the other side of the tracks where they lived in close proximity to the Egyptians. They had business ventures and deals with the Egyptians, and some were able to get special treatment from them during the time of hard labor. It's interesting to note that despite being in Egypt for close to 100 years, the Jews were still looked upon as the newcomers, not good Egyptian civilians. The Egyptians wondered why should we respect people that don't respect themselves? Why do they treat our things dearer than their own?
The Egyptians actually did not bother the Jews as long as we kept to ourselves. But once we began to resemble "regular Egyptians", did the hatred begin. The Jewish Nation was called it by Pharaoh. Imagine being called "it"! That's the equivalent today of being called "you people". And suddenly without the necessary Jewish exposure and commitment to Jewish rituals and values their Jewish identity quickly vanished. They became slaves long before the Egyptians enforced slavery upon them because they had already become slaves to Egyptian culture, Egyptian fashion and Egyptian values. They were so engrossed and involved politically, and emotionally with this country that they would find it nearly impossible to pull themselves away when they had to. They looked upon themselves as good Egyptians who happened to be Jewish, instead of Jewish People who happened to be living temporarily in Egypt. This is very similar to American Jewry today.
Not only were the majority of Jews in Egypt blind to the redemption occurring right before their eyes, they were also blind to the plagues that were brought by Hashem through Moses and Aaron. These plagues were not natural disasters brought upon them by nature. They were afflictions sent upon the Egyptians to punish them measure for measure for their actions against the Jews. To quote Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian who is actually mentioned by Rashi, "no such plagues ever happened to any other nation as happened to the Egyptians." The Jews who wound up leaving Egypt, unlike those who were too attached to Egyptian society to leave, saw the plagues from afar and understood what they meant. They knew the redemption was imminent and they prepared themselves for it. The current disasters that have struck the world over the past several years were really plagues. We are being tested at this current time period to see if we will close our eyes to what is really occurring, and go into denial, or if we will open our eyes and see the hand of G-d and the clear showing of His might. When we view these plagues we must be in awe of Hashem, pray that He protects us from them, and prepare ourselves for our imminent redemption.

1 comment:

  1. There are many reasons to return to Eretz Israel, the Israelites have done so already, and it is in our cultural consciousness, as I have done so.

    The soul's voice may be too distant in the minds of many. Practical reasons would be beneficial, but for most it's just too hard and unnecessary. Why bother?