Published in HaZofe Newspaper, Apr. 4, 1998 brought by his son, Rav Efraim Zik, Lima Rosh Kollel
Shabbat – in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot – in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. The Torah constantly tells me, “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt.”
Why is the Exodus from Egypt such a big deal? Why not, for example, the Creation of the world?
The world was based on slavery.
Sumer, Akkadia, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and Rome (the United States as well) were empires whose economies depended upon slaves. There were drawers of water but no drawers of dust (i.e., vacuum cleaners). There were no gas ovens or dishwashers. The housework was done by slaves. Tractors had not yet been invented, nor had combines or cotton pickers. All of the field work, building, and maintenance was done by slaves – the same slaves who had nothing in their own homes, or who had no homes at all.
The empires flourished, the rulers partied, and the slaves had to swallow it. There was constant tension between a slave and his owner. The slave wished to flee, but the owner wished to keep him so he would work. A successful escape by a slave would have brought down the entire system. The slaves all would have run away and the empire would have crumbled. Therefore horrific punishments were meted out to slaves who attempted escape. Their owners would search for them throughout the world, bring them back, and hold public executions – “so people would see and fear.” As a result, “No slave ever fled from Egypt,” nor from Greece or Rome.
The kingdom and the king were primary.
Then – and in a few places, even now – the kingdom was of primary importance. The king or ruler was the divine representative. Everyone was required to serve the kingdom and the king. The residents were simply “subjects.” Any rights that a person had were the result of the king or queen granting them.
God sets me in the center of the universe.
With the Exodus from Egypt, all precedents were shattered. Two million slaves went free, and became a living proof that it was possible to escape slavery yet remain alive. The people of Israel (and I among them) took a stand against Egypt and Pharaoh, and informed the world: “No more kingdom or king, no more empire or Caesar.”
Instead, at the center of human existence, man interfaces with God. The country and the ruler, with all due respect, are secondary. We now have a direct, unmediated relationship between the individual and God. After the Exodus from Egypt, the world looked different. There is a news flash for mankind: You are not a slave of Pharaoh, you are a creation of God. Man communicates with his Creator and has free choice.
I am a slave of God.
Ever since then, “I am a slave of God” and not a slave of slaves.
Ever since then, if a slave seeks refuge with me, I will not return him to his master. The empires can yell and scream, but he can stay with me, where he chooses to be. I am prepared to defy the whole world, to protect the divine image within me. I will always remember that had I remained in Egypt, I would have been a slave, body and soul.
I, along with my ancestors the Jewish people, changed the entire trajectory of human history. With the Exodus from Egypt, a direct man-to-God connection was created. I am part of the avant garde which, at the beginning of history, favored freedom and liberty over oppression and slavery, free thought over political correctness.
I left Egypt.
And with all modesty, I’m proud of it!