As if Jews needed a reminder about what a modern rendition of “Pharaoh’s heart hardened,” President Obama is providing an example, emphasizing an important lesson: the Egyptian dictator/king was part of the process of liberation and, ultimately, of God’s will and the destiny of the Jewish People.
Despite Obama’s nasty treatment of Israel’s Prime Minister and unreasonable demands, Hillary Clinton’s condemnations and suggestions that Israel is responsible for war crimes, human rights violations and hindering America’s war efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan; despite Israel’s demonization at the UN and Arab/Muslim boycott and isolation, the Israeli government and the Jewish People are stronger and more united.
In Egypt, three millennia ago, Hebrews (as Jews were then called) not only suffered as slaves, but believed that slavery was their lot. Not yet a people, they had descended to the lowest rung of human existence, spiritually as well as physically; they lived in a state of unconsciousness.
Moses and Aaron awakened Jewish awareness; but it took ten plagues to convince Pharaoh to allow the Jews to leave, a process of realization that involved suffering and destruction, especially for the Egyptians. Had Pharaoh allowed the Jews to leave immediately, there would not have been a revelation of divine power, in contrast to Pharaoh’s phony ego-trip.
Not only was it necessary for Jews to understand that Pharaoh was not God, it was also important for Egyptians. Only when the Egyptian army was engulfed and destroyed was the meaning of The Exodus revealed. But that was only the beginning of freedom.
The great Jewish Liberation Movement that inspired countless others to resist subjugation and oppression was connected to two objectives: the Covenant at Sinai, which was the beginning of the Jewish People, and the conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel as the fulfillment of divine commandments, the struggle towards Jewish destiny.
Galut (exile) is part of Geulah (redemption); both are necessary parts of the process of developing consciousness. Without a vision of Geulah, Galut is meaningless tragedy.
Obama’s hard-heartedness towards Israel and the Jewish People is now obvious to all. As difficult as that seems, however, it is yet another omen of good things to come. That does not mean that there won’t be hard times; there will be – for sure. But this is only a test.
It would have been more comfortable if Obama and Pharaoh had treated the Jewish People more kindly. But that would have obstructed the process of spiritual awareness.
Jewish liberation is not only physical, but is a creative process of self-discovery, as an individual, as part of a family, a nation and a People. The historical episodes are markers on a path towards a grander purpose. With miracles and tragedies along the way, we need to be attuned to both.
Pharaoh became obsessed with destroying the Jews, and, in the process destroyed his own country; many other tyrants followed his example. And the Jewish People are still around.
The story of The Exodus reminds us that there are no easy roads to self-discovery – as individuals and as a People. We eat “the bread of affliction” in comfort, thinking we are free and independent, yet, hesitant to be committed; full of accomplishments, we are paupers of responsibility.
Obama puts it to us: what rightfully belongs to the Jewish People in the Land of Israel?
Obama and his friends may not like Israel, and it’s disappointing, but it may also be a way of clarifying what is important for us, and for finding our integrity.
Passover/Pesach – the celebration of freedom – begins with an act, but evolves into an ongoing drama of immense proportions. Obama’s wrath turns us back to meaning of The Exodus: we are in God’s hands.
The author is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.