Israel Forever

For the week ending 7 February 2004 / 15 Shevat 5764

Some Like It Caught

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Theres a strange thing about slavery some people prefer it to freedom!

This was true thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt and is true today in modern Israel.

In the opening passages of this weeks Torah portion describing the Israelite exodus from Egypt there is a hint that not all of our ancestors were interested in leaving. The Midrash relates that all of those who refused to accept the Divine invitation to freedom from Egyptian bondage (eighty percent of the population!) perished during the plague of darkness visited upon the obstinate Pharaoh so that the Egyptians would not rejoice in seeing the Israelites suffering along with them.

Why would so many people turn their backs on an opportunity to gain freedom?

The answer lies in the nature of assimilation. Certainly there were Jews who steadfastly maintained their identity through their language, their names, and their clothes. But there were many who could not resist the temptation to become enslaved to the corrupt culture of a prosperous superpower. Even the hard slave labor they paid as a price for this assimilation had already come to a halt with the beginning of the Ten Plagues. Why then, they asked themselves, should they abandon a country and a lifestyle in which they were born and raised to follow Moshe into the wilderness on the basis of some Divine promise that they would inherit some unknown land flowing with milk and honey?

As a result of such shortsightedness they were willing to take the risk of being returned to slave labor once the plagues were over and preferred being culturally enslaved in an alien land to facing the challenge and opportunity of freedom.

The historical conclusion is that some people like to be caught in the bear-hug of an alien world rather than assume the responsibilities of Divine guidance that guarantees true freedom. Todays Jewish assimilationists in Israel and elsewhere must learn this lesson and choose freedom for Israel forever.

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