Sorry Zeyde, but I'm a slave to my leather bucket seats!
This weekend marks the beginning of the Pesach holiday, the time of which G-d freed us from our slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt was not just a one-time occurrence, but rather something that replays itself out in every generation. As such it’s important that we recognize how Pesach is occurring now in our times. Who is Pharaoh? Where/what is Egypt? How are we enslaved and what must we do if we want to free ourselves?More than any other available option of countries around today, without a doubt I would say America is the Egypt of our times. Boasting the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, America keeps our brethren trapped within it’s borders and keeps them from re-uniting with the homeland of their fathers much as ancient Egypt did thousands of years ago.
But hold on a minute here, hasn’t slavery been outlawed in America since the civil war you say? And hasn’t America traditionally been “good to the Jews?” True, this slavery may not come in the form of whippings and beatings, or building pyramids. It does, however, come in the form of an addiction to yearly vacation, a bigger swimming pool in the back yard, more trips to the hair salon, or driving the latest German import. So who is Pharaoh? I’ll give you a hint- he’s small, green, fits in your wallet, and has the face of George Washington.
Egypt was the lone world superpower of its time, America is the world’s lone superpower today. During the great famine, the starving masses flocked to Egypt. In our time masses of those seeking the American dream of ending their famine of not being rich flock, some even braving the journey by sea on death-trap rafts just to get their fair crack at it. And just as there were no guards on Egypt’s borders to keep people in, so too in America you are free to leave whenever you choose and yet very few are actually packing their bags.
The number one excuse I hear from people as to why they cannot or will not leave America for Israel is, “While I’d love to live in Israel, the money factor is just too big for me.” For many it’s debt. The more they try and climb their way out the deeper they seem to fall in. A friend once told me that this economic labyrinth from which people can’t seem to escape is not original to our times but actually comes from Egypt. Apparently Pharaoh would promise people the good life, offering them a great house in a nice neighborhood, maybe a sturdy horse or donkey too, and all for free! Sort of… these things were all offered on credit, to be paid back later but people were fooled into the illusion that they were somehow getting something for nothing, failing to see how their debts would come back to haunt them later. Sound familiar?
For those who are keeping their heads above water, their monetary excuse is that they wouldn’t be able to afford the same lifestyle in Israel that they now have in America. Excuse me but since when is an easy and comfortable life necessarily a fulfilling one? How many celebrities do you see that have much more money, toys, vacations, etc. then you will ever have and yet they are so unhappy they end up killing themselves? Besides, while you sit comfortably in your big house in America think about your ancestors who would have given everything in their lives to be able to come live in the land of Israel. Not only do we now have a state that enables us to do so but you can even get hooked up with a free plane ride over here and a welcome basket of government benefits and money (read: You get paid to move to Israel)! Be honest with yourself for one minute and imagine if your zeyde came back from the grave to ask you why you’re still in America. Just try to think of a persuasive way to tell him that you’d rather have a nice BMW with heated leather bucket seats then to live in the land he only saw in his most beautiful dreams.
So for all our brothers and sisters who are still in America, this year when you do your Pesach seder, instead of just paying lip service why don’t you actually put some serious thought into the freedom from slavery that it represents. How about freeing yourself from the Egyptian slavery of that dollar in your wallet and finally making the move home to be with the rest of us? After all… it’s no coincidence that the dollar has a pyramid on it!