In 1820 Congress passed the Missouri Compromise which formalized slave states and free states and the rules of return of slaves etc. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed, freeing the slaves. 45 years. It’s been 150 years since the African Americans were freed, but we still see and hear about black rage as an excuse for outrage and carnage.
We were slaves in Egypt for 200 years, what effect did it have on us?
There is so very much to discuss, I have a lot on my mind, but too much to write in one article. So on one foot, let’s proceed.
OK, we were slaves a long time ago, but in our daily prayers and in our festival Kiddush we say “Zecher l’yitziat mitzraim/to commemorate the exodus from Egypt.” Really G-d, do we have to remember our slavery all these centuries later, does it have to impinge on our festivals as well?
What happened to the Jews in Egypt? What did the Egyptians do to the Jews all those 200 years? Parshat Shmot merely states that there was a new ruler who enslaved the Jews, but it never discusses in detail those 200 years, the daily life of the Jews over the years, it goes right into introducing us to Moshe and G-d telling him to lead the Jews out of Egypt and into the 10 plagues.
The Yalkut Meam Loez states in detail that each of the ten plagues were an eye for an eye punishment for what the Egyptians did to the Jews over those 200 years. It details the calamities that the Jews suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. It is the Yad Vashem that testifies to the horrors that befell the Jews at the hands of the Egyptians. It is horrifying testimonial.
If this is so, then why doesn’t the Torah in the text itself outline the horrors that befell the Jews, why do we need to go to the Medrash to search for it? Th answer is Zecher l’yitziat mitzraim/to commemorate the exodus from Egypt and not Zecher l’shibud mitzraim/to commemorate the slavery of Egypt.
The exodus from Egypt is a paradigm for all generations. We learn that there is going to be Egyptian slavery when G-d tells Abraham in Genesis: You should know that your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and they will be enslaved and they will be tortured…and they will leave with great riches.
We have to remember that when we are slaves or when we have tzarot/troubles [from the root of mitzraim/Egypt, which is Tzar, pain/trouble], that that G-d which enslaved us and appeared removed from us, is that G-d who performed miracles for us and redeemed us.
It hearkens back to two weeks ago when I discussed my recent trip to Yad Vashem and I spent hours going from room to room to see how the Nazis tortured the Jews, and when I came out, I exited to a panorama of Israel. Yes, that G-d who permitted 6 million Jews to die in the early 1940s, is that same G-d who, three years later, had the anti-semitic United Nation countries somehow decide or feel guilt after 2,000 years to permit the Jews to return to their historic homeland.
Don’t harp on the shibud/the slavery the troubles, keep hope and faith that there is redemption. Remember that in Egypt, as the Jews toiled, their cries went up to G-d for redemption, redeem us G-d so that we can serve you only. G-d heard their prayers. We always must turn to G-d and trust in His redemption.