When Jacob’s family, 75 members strong left for Egypt to the fertile land of Goshen, they went to meet their beloved Joseph, now a powerful leader only second in command to the Pharaoh, in order to ride out the famine in Canaan. They could have returned back to their home land once the famine was over they did not. After all, their brother was the ruler of the land.
The members of the family could have returned to Canaan once Joseph died some 40 years or so. There was no reason to stay any more. They still did not. We know the rest of the story of course.
From a bird’s eye view it seems that the reason for staying was a Divine Will to create a yearning and struggle for freedom among the Hebrew slaves a few centuries later. But whose struggle was it?
When Moses first returned to Egypt and announced that he will free the slaves the Hebrews ridiculed him as a strange dreamer. Yet they cried out to G-D to save them from their suffering. A great struggle for freedom ensued.
But was it really a human struggle for freedom? Was it one nation’s war against tyranny and enslavement? Remember that the Israelites were totally passive in their bid for freedom as if it wasn’t their fight. In fact, as the Torah demonstrates several times later on in the desert, some of them were quite content remaining slaves.
This is in fact a story of a Divine fight for human freedom but not a human struggle.
So let me understand this. The Old Mighty makes the Hebrews stay in Egypt after the death of Joseph with no good reason, then causes them to become slaves and then fights the pharaoh to free them. What a strange sequence of events!
When G-D created humans he got directly involved in the act. He did not command it to happen like he did for all other animals. Rather, he himself physically made a human shape from the dirt of the earth and breathed life into it. The human being is so close to Godliness that the Holy One, G-D felt the need to make Adam with his “Bare hands”
The idea that the Passover freedom struggle is a Divine war against oppression for the sake of mankind is the same as the idea of human creation. When Moses finally yanked the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s grip, the message to mankind through the Hebrews and us, their descendants was profound, that human freedom is our fundamental right. G-d implanted this within us through the ancient struggle with a tyrant Pharaoh. No one can take it away from us. It is basic to our existence.
Passover is the time when we remember that the Light of Freedom and Decency was put in the Jewish heart and soul some 3,300 years ago to watch over and keep alive in a world that would despise freedom for many centuries to come.
We are still carrying it in our hearts. Our children inherit it from us to keep it safe in their hearts until such time that peace and freedom will no longer be in our prayers but in our world.
May it be so this Passover!