Leon's No Newsletter 235 Freedom from slavery
Why did God free the Jews from slavery?
As was my custom I checked my IPhone to read the latest news. I didn’t have much to do; I was sitting at the clinic, waiting my turn to see Dr. Madonna, my doctor for the last 20 years or so. There’s nothing much wrong with me, just peeing a little more than usual. I’ve since been to the specialist she sent me to and have learnt that the problem is under control. He prescribed some tablets that affect the hormones. I never ask doctors what they mean but it sounds exciting.
At first I read that a bomb blast occurred at Brussels airport. Then I read that perhaps one person was injured. Then it was 13 people dead. Then 35 injured. Now about 5 hrs later 55 dead and untold injured. My first question was, naturally if there was anyone I knew then if there were any Israelis. My next question was “what if I was one of those injured?” My way of life would alter; I’d be seeing doctors more than once year as I do now.
Living has always been a dangerous affair and every generation thinks that more threatening situations face it than previous generations. That may be true taking into account the ever increasing quantity of killing instruments in the hands of common people. As time goes on every day sees more people in possession of killing instruments. This includes motor cars, firearms, and chemicals and so on. Just think of how dangerous a simple thing like electricity is and how many people have electricity at their fingertips compared to the number of people with this dangerous material on hand several years ago.
The threat doesn’t come from responsible people having weapons but from irresponsible people having them.
This problem was raised already by Socrates in one of his famous questions;
“Okay, I agree that the repayment of a debt is just, but does that mean that I ought to return a deposit of arms or of anything else to one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses; and yet a deposit cannot be denied to be a debt?” (Republic of Plato Chapter 1)
Already in ancient Greece there were problems of mad people carrying weapons. Nobody has yet figured out a way of keeping weapons out of the hands of madmen. Who is to decide who is to have weapons and who not?
Socrates’ question however is not addressed to the individual, but mainly to a nation like Israel, which wields tremendous power, and decides to whom to delegate that power. It’s citizens, mostly think it is responsible. The state makes the laws concerning who should carry weapons and who should not. The individual must simply obey them.
Naturally the individual must always be on his guard lest the state orders him to carry out an unjust act.
Being on our guard means being watchful how the state deals with madmen, namely individuals who misuse the power delegated to them, like soldiers misusing weapons. They would be madmen, in Socrates’ description and they shouldn’t have been given weapons, but once having those weapons they misuse them the state must punish them. The state that does not punish such criminals with the full weight of the law is tyrannical and its citizens should be wary.
Once again we will act out our exodus from Egypt more than 3000 years ago. This play that we act out becomes routine as all play acting is. The real, original event, however, was spontaneous. In a play everybody knows the outcome, in the original event nobody knew what is the outcome. Everything was a surprise. Nobody knew how it would all end.
Our objective in the Passover meal is to make it resemble the original event. The better we act the closer our play, the Passover meal, will resemble the original event. Also the more surprises we have the more realistic the celebration will be. Some examples of these surprises are: Who will ask the 4 questions? Who will give the answers? Where is the “Afikoman” hidden and who will find it?
In reality one could say that the exodus from Egypt was the first of many surprises for the Jewish People. For example imagine the surprise of a slave to suddenly find himself a free man. The “Hagaddah” which we read before the meal is really an enumeration of these surprises.
For example take the song “It would have been enough” . I call it “What if God hadn’t…?”
Here is my version of the song called “Dayenu”:
What if God hadn’t taken us out of Egypt? We wouldn’t have crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
What if God hadn’t split the sea? We we wouldn’t have crossed over on dry land.
What if God hadn’t lead us through the desert? We wouldn’t have received the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
What if God hadn’t brought us into the Land of Israel? We wouldn’t have had the Temple.
What if God hadn’t destroyed the Temple? We wouldn’t have been scattered among the nations of the earth.
What if God hadn’t created the State of Israel? We don’t know. We’re waiting to see what surprise awaits us in the future.
The ultimate event however has been promised by God. It is stated in Genesis 18:
"Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."
I wish you a happy Pesach. Let us rejoice in our freedom and remember to deal kindly with those who are still slaves and most of all let us never become taskmasters like the Egyptians.