Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conversations on Shemot: The Long Walk to Freedom

We know the story well – the Israelites were in such a hurry to leave slavery in Egypt, their dough didn’t even have time to rise and become 'leavened'. Yet there was one thing they DID have time to do before they left…ask the Egyptians for gold and silver.

Putting aside the fact this sounds like the beginning of an anti-Semitic joke, this week we looked at this specific issue, in order to try and understand what it means for us today.

British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that a people driven by hate cannot be fully free. While there is no way of giving back the years spent in servitude, providing a slave with gifts (as is commanded in Devarim) is a way of ensuring that the parting is done with goodwill and some symbolic compensation. According to Sacks, these gifts "allow the former slave to reach emotional closure; to feel that a new chapter is beginning; to leave without anger and a sense of humiliation."

While this is well and good, is it possible that despite Jews having our own sovereign state and the strongest army and economy in the region, we continue to be frightened, continue to view the world with suspicion, continue to hate?

Is it possible we have not fully liberated ourselves from the bonds of slavery?

Might one Bechol Dor VaDor we read in the Haggdah – the one that calls for reach individual to free himself from Egypt – clash with another Bechol Dor VaDor – the one that reminds us that in every generation enemies rise up against us?

Click here for the source sheet and the audio recording

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