Friday, April 6, 2007

Paschal Greetings ;By Israel Adam Shamir

"Was it good or bad in Egypt for the people of Israel? The Bible leaves the reader confused. On one hand, they were enslaved and had to built the cities in fear of the brutal overseer’s whip. Exodus 5:7-19 tells that the Pharaoh ceased to provide them with straw to make bricks of (even to this day they mix straw and clay to make bricks in the Nile Valley) and they ran around gathering stubble and straw for the quota of bricks remained as it was. Whenever they would say: “We would rather go and pray”, the Pharaoh would answer: you say so because you are idle, you have too much time on your hands; hurry, do your job, deliver more bricks! And they were beaten to work harder and faster. A legend (“midrash”) tells of a pregnant woman who was mixing straw and clay for bricks, worked hard, and when she gave birth, her child fell into the pit and was made into a brick. This brick was taken up to heaven and laid at the feet of God. On the other hand, in the desert, the Israelites complained that they had left the flesh-pots of Egypt, the land of plenty, where they had everything they ever could wish - for the hardships of desert life. So what it was – a cruel bondage or prosperity? This contradiction can’t be settled convincingly, unless one understands that the story of Exodus is an extended metaphor. The bondage is the bondage of flesh, of our everyday life, of pursuit of things. The Pharaoh, call him Satan, or Consumer spirit, demands from us to make more and more bricks, to earn more money, so we will forget about God. Every day we sacrifice some time of our children (“turn them into bricks”) for instead of attending to them we work more to pay mortgage, this is the quota of bricks, to repay for the car credit, and what not. And from time to time we go to a nice candle-lit restaurant on the seaside for a good meal – this is the fleshpots."

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