3,000 years after the Jewish people left Egyptian slavery bound for the land of Israel, their freedom remains as elusive as ever. A new Pharaoh adjacent not to the Nile, but the Potomac, looks out from the White House and issues his decrees regarding the Jews.
No sooner does a Jew build a house in Jerusalem, than one of the Pharaoh’s flunkies rushes to condemn him for it. A week before Passover, one of those flunkies announced that the administration was both “deeply concerned” and “very worried” about new Jewish homes in Jerusalem. A day later Jewish families hoping to be able to live in their own holy city were greeted with the announcement that approval for more housing had been suspended to avoid offending the little man with the big ears in the White House.
The Obama Administration has spent more time condemning housing in Jerusalem, than genocide in the Sudan. If some parts of Israel are constantly being shelled by terrorists, the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem is constantly being shelled by administration spokesmen. Year after year, the people of an overcrowded city are frustrated in their efforts to find a place to live, when some White House or State Department flunky finishes sipping his coffee, gets up in front of a microphone and expresses the grave concern of his master that a new condominium might go up in a place where Jews had been living long before the religion of Obama’s grandmother was even a twinkle in her mad prophet’s eye.
Building permits in Jerusalem now undergo a perverse kind of astrology. Approvals for every stage of the process must happen at a time when no administration official is visiting Jerusalem, and no Israeli official is visiting the US. When Biden visited Jerusalem at the same time that a municipal housing approval came through– the administration staged a convulsive spectacle.
Biden threw a fit and stood up Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton shrilled that the housing approvals “were not only an insult to Biden, but an insult to the United States” and then spent 43 minutes berating the prime minister over the phone over what would have been a minor municipal issue in her own country. “There was an affront, it was an insult”, chimed in David Axelrod. A hundred media outlets took up the theme. The theme being that the Jews had gotten so arrogant that they were approving construction in their own city at the same time that a politician who had three times endorsed Jerusalem as the undivided capital had stopped by for a visit.
Pharaoh was determined to prevent the Jewish people from going off to build their own country. And now Obama is determined that Jews should not build in their own city. There is a vicious irony in the administration applying such repression before Passover, a holiday of free men and women taken out of the bonds of Egypt against the will of its tyrant. A reminder that the millions of Jews who cry out, “Next Year in Jerusalem” are reminded that a new tyrant bars their way.
In his Passover message, Obama cited the Islamist revolts in the Muslim world as embodying the message of the holiday. Applying the message of a holiday in which the Jewish people were liberated from Egypt– to celebrate rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which seeks to wipe out the Jewish people, is willfully perverse. The Bible says of Pharaoh that he rose as a new King who did not know Joseph. Obama clearly does not know Joseph, but he is quite familiar with Mohammed.
When Obama visited Egypt, souvenirs were sold of him in Pharaonic garb calling him “The New Tutankhamen”, after the Pharaoh who falsely pretended to be of a religion that he was not in order to revert its monotheism to polytheism. Obama has credited his Cairo speech with the Egyptian revolution. Seen in that light his Passover message is the ultimate act of egocentrism, crediting himself as the ultimate embodiment of Passover. There is something of the Pharaoh looking out upon the Nile in such self-adoration.
From the Muslim Brotherhood to the Palestinian Authority– the new slaughter of Jewish infants is backed by the authority of the United States government. And a new generation of Jewish overseers, from organizations such as J-Street, compels obedience to the man whose government is pushing hard for the creation of a genocidal Palestinian state.
It is not hard to hear the mad echoes of that ancient Pharaoh conspiring with his courtiers, issuing press releases on the projected benefits of his Slavery 2300 initiative, and berating his Jewish overseers for not pushing their brethren hard enough. And as with all master-slave relations it is hard to know whom to be more disgusted by. The Pharaoh whose ego outshines all other considerations or the slaves who bow under the lash of his wrath.
The cyclical nature of history is both our blessing and our curse. It allows us to learn from the past, which torments us by its repetition. The Pharaohs come and go. Blazing stars of ego that crash against the heavens and fall back as cinders to fertilize the soil of history. As do their followers. The lessons go more unlearned, than learned. And so the wheel turns again. Like a puppet in a Punch and Judy show, Pharaoh rises and postures, shakes a tiny fist at the heavens, and proclaims his supremacy. The lesson that follows is not for his benefit, but for ours. The egomaniac never learns any better. Nor do the blank hordes who enlist in his cult of personality. It is the people who know better but remain silent who must learn.
No one who reads the Bible can help but measure when the conduct of the pharaohs topple from cruelty into madness. When self-interest turns to self-destruction. The enslavement of the Jews begins as a means to an end, the glorification of the reign of the ruler, and ends as an goal in and of itself that destroys all the ends it was meant to serve. This is how tyranny always ends, its execution destroying its justifications. The economic programs of Nazism and Communism still ended in poverty and ruin, no matter how many rivers of blood they spilled. Evil destroys itself, but first it destroys a great deal else.
In his final lecture before fleeing the Soviet Union, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein warned that the exile of the spirit is worse than the slavery of the flesh. It is the first exile and the final exile. Before the body is enslaved, the spirit is enslaved. And even after the body is free, the spirit still goes on in chains.
That is why the physical slavery of the Jews in Egypt fell far short of the 400 years that had been foretold to Abraham. For the slavery of the spirit precedes and endures past the actual slavery. Even when they were prosperous citizens of Egypt before the chains fell on them and after when they marched out highhandedly as a liberated people– the shackles had not fallen from their spirit. They were free by law, but slavery had crept into their souls. The message of that final climactic night, to slaughter a sheep and paint its blood upon their doorposts was a declaration of freedom, to kill the sheep within. The herd animal that longed for slavery and that even in the desert turned its eyes back to the place of its servitude.The Jews had come to Egypt as shepherds, but Egypt had turned them into sheep.
The liberation began when Moshe and Aaron stood before Pharaoh and dared to say to him, what none had dared to say before. Let My People Go. With those words the end had come. Not with mere force but by establishing a superior moral authority to that of the tyrant. It is easy to be a slave, when you have no higher principle than the authority of the system. And to be free, you must find a higher principle than that authority or you will be forever a slave.
Few tyrants rule solely by force. Their authority derives from their insistence that they represent the common good. To challenge them is to undermine the common good. Their way is the way of peace. The way of the Peace Process, which has converted Israel from a strong and secure nation, to a divided nation pierced by a genocidal enemy state inside its territory. It is in everyone’s best interests to follow the will of the tyrant. To oppose him is to disrupt the harmony. Building homes in Jerusalem is disruptive. It is not peaceful. Why? Because that is what the tyrant says. And to accede to that is to accept the moral authority of his rule.
“Let My People Go”, redefined the men and women who had been Pharaoh’s slaves as “Ami”, the People of G-d. Not slaves of a tyrant, but a people and a nation whose only allegiance was to their Creator. To say to a tyrant, “Let My People Go” is to deny his physical and moral authority. His right to dispose of their lives as he sees fit. It begins the process of breaking the chains of the flesh, by breaking the chains of the spirit that binds a people to slavery.
Obama, Let My People Go. Let them go live in Jerusalem and throughout their land. Take away your chains and your pyramids and your Palestinian state. Stop your financing of Islamic terrorists. Keep your press releases and your flacks, and your notes of “deep concern” every time a hammer hits a nail in territory claimed by your Islamic friends. Your way is not that of peace, but of appeasement. Your law is the will of terrorists and their enablers. This is not your land. It is not the land of the Muslim conquerors whose rights you so assiduously defend. You have no physical or moral authority here.
Let my people go.