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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
One of the things that a Jew is supposed to remember each day is that Hashem took us out of bondage in Egypt. Since our Sages tell us that a person should start learning about a holiday thirty days before its arrival, now is a fine time to learn a bit about the message of Pesach.
We are supposed to remember each day that Hashem took us out of bondage in Egypt because Hashem wants us always to remember that we don’t belong in a foreign land. For a Jew, being in a land other than Eretz Yisrael is being in mental, physical, psychological, spiritual, and cultural bondage.
This is the big lesson of the festival of Pesach. It comes along every year to remind us that we don’t belong in foreign lands, whether it be the Egypt of old, or the America, Canada, Belgium, or Mexico of today.
Also, in our Sabbath and holiday prayers, we always say that the giving of the Sabbath, and our holidays, are reminders of the exodus from Egypt. The understanding that we don’t belong in foreign lands is the cornerstone of our essence as a Jewish Nation and our personal identities as Jews.
The reason that we are called upon to remember this every day, every Sabbath, and every holiday, is that there is a yetzer (evil inclination) to forget. Someone who lives in foreign bondage in a gentile land doesn’t like to be reminded of it. He’d rather forget the sordid truth of his situation. In a sense, he’s sleeping. Living in a dream world.
He doesn’t want to have his bubble burst, so he pretends that everything is OK. Forgetfulness can happen to creatures of flesh and blood, so Hashem is constantly reminding us in our prayers and our holidays that we’re not supposed be living in gentile lands.
It’s a lot like the movie, “The Truman Show.” It turned out that the hero was living in a fake, illusionary world. He thought it was real, but it wasn’t. Only when a light fixture (like a Fishman blog) fell down from the fake sky did he begin to suspect that something was fishy. It turned out he was living in a sort of sci-fi prison. He thought he was free, but he wasn’t. He thought things were real, but they weren’t. Finally, after a determined struggle, he discovered that the life he was living was fake.
The truth is that the exile in Egypt was a lot better than the exile today. At least in Egypt, we knew we were in bondage. We knew we were living in a foreign country. We knew we were imprisoned. We could see the bars.
Today, the Jews who live in the Diaspora don’t see the reality of their situation. They don’t think they’re in bondage. They don’t even feel that they are living in a foreign land. So they don’t see any reason to leave.
In a sense, Jonathan Pollard, for all of the unjust horror of his situation, is better off than everyone else in the Diaspora. At least he knows that he is in prison. Everyone else lives with the myth that they’re free! The truth is that they are just as captive as Jonathan is, only they don’t see the bars. Just like the Truman Show.
So Hashem is always trying to wake us up in a gentle fashion by making us remember in our prayers, and through our holidays, that we don’t belong in foreign countries, no matter how idyllic life may seem to be in Truman Show of galut.
As we approach the Pesach holiday, it’s time to think about its clear and straightforward message, so that Seder night will be more than just munching on matzah and lettuce and getting smashed on the wine.
Have the courage to walk through the door.
Break on through to the other side. Break on through to the other side. Break on through, break on through, break on throuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. Yeaaaaah!