If you know the Biblical story of the Jewish Exodus from ancient Egypt, you know about slavery and plagues. We have been reading about this story for most of the last several weeks, covering the first twenty chapters of the Book called, Sh’mot (Exodus) during our weekly Torah readings.
If you recall, this story begins with insolence, when the Egyptian Pharaoh appears to deny both G-d and Moshe (see text and commentary in The Chumash, The Stone Edition of the ArtScroll Series, Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn, NY, 1996, pp.292-414). Pharaoh, we learn, is arrogant. He is dismissive. He has little time--and no patience--for these Jews.
We see such insolence today. We see the arrogance. In fact, we may even see hints of what that ancient Pharaoh saw, signs and wonders. The challenge we face is his challenge: do we say that what unfolds before us is part of our Destiny, or do we react with some form of dismissal or, worse, Pharonic ridicule?
Most American Jews fail that test.
The truth is, Jews in America are like the Jews of the Exodus story. For example, we see the Hamas Charter and the PLO/Fatah Charter, where Arabs call to kill Jews and replace Israel with a religious Islamic state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. We see videos of Muslim clergy calling to their followers to kill Jews as an Islamic duty. We see it all. What do we do? We watch. Then we harden our hearts--against Israel.
Reform Jewish leaders, J Street and all who choose Liberalism over Judaism turn against Israel, appearing to support an Arab narrative of victimhood by Jewish oppression. TV, newspapers and political commentators around the world promote the Arab story: Jews control the world. Israel is a Nazi state. Jews wantonly kill innocent Arab babies.
We feel the hate. We see the arrogance. We ignore it—and buy into the notion that justice has nothing to do with the Jew.
It’s what many Jews of the Exodus story did.
Curiously, as we accept lies as truth, the world we live in changes: the air we breathe becomes foul. Water becomes unsafe to drink. Economies teeter.
Essayists wonder what plagues us just as accusations against Israel grow more intense. The European Union scorns Israel. Thomas Friedman demonizes Israel. Islamic clergy, the Church of England, the Presbyterian Church and Catholic leaders speak out: the Jew is not the Chosen. He is a brutal oppressor who must be opposed by all good men.
Prompted by religious leaders and media, the hate spreads. At the same time, oceans and rivers become polluted. Beaches close. Fish die.
TV reports it all.
A madman in America kills children. Sharks attack at the Egyptian coast. Israel is blamed. Can you believe that? There appears to be no end to the hate.
Look around: snowstorms kill. Food prices increase. Jews are repulsive.
What plagues us?
In ancient Egypt, the central focal-point for the Egyptian economy was the Nile River. Many worshipped the power of that River.
It turned to blood.
In America, the central focal-point of modern capitalism is the New York financial district. Many worship the power of that place. On September 11, 2001, that district turned into a poisonous grey ash. Thousands died. More than eleven years later, America’s economy still hasn’t recovered.
The River that is America’s economy has become foul with unemployment, underemployment and lost hope. For many, ‘quality of life’ has turned to dust.
Meanwhile, the Left defines our morality. Hate redefines justice. The Left speaks for all when it cries, ‘for world peace, destroy Israel’.
We hear it. We see it. We feel it. We say nothing.
What’s next? Does America become an ancient Egypt? Does there arise a new Pharaoh who turns against Israel?
We should learn from our past because sometimes, the past foretells our future.
Think about it. You see the world around you. You hear what the world says. Consciously or unconsciously, you draw conclusions. You make decisions.
Like most people, you believe you are smart. The world can fool you once, but not twice. You understand what you see. You are nobody’s fool.
So here’s a piece of advice: the Jews of the Exodus story went through the same thought process you face. They saw. They heard. They thought it through. They, too, were surrounded by hate, arrogance and disaster.
Nevertheless, eighty per cent of them chose not to leave. They chose Egypt over Israel. Only twenty per cent chose Israel.
Being religious is not the issue. The Jews of pre-war Europe learned that the hard way. The issue is exile.
That’s the choice the Jews of the Exodus story had to make. It’s also your choice: exile or Israel.
Are you one of the eighty per cent?