Pesach 5770: Feeling the Hebrew Mindset of Mitzrayim

by Moshe Burt

Our Rabbanim inform us that for the Pesach Seder to have meaning, beyond the external, superficial or by-rote ritual, we have to feel ourselves as if in Mitzrayim; the oppression, the being put upon, the slave labor and persecution soo overpowering and all-pervasive that we lose the will and the capability of verbally communication; what Shem Mishmuel (Shem Mishmuel p. 225) calls the “blocked channel between speech and nefesh.”

Before a previous Pesach, this author addressed the personal framing of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim in historical terms and relating to the blanks regarding family life — parent-child relations, education, shidduchim, etc.

But how do we, in our times and in realistic terms, conjure up the mindset needed to relate and transplant ourselves “back to the past”, back to Mitzrayim — back to the outrageous demands by Pharoah for a quota of bricks without straw, back to the oppressive retributions and more?

This difficulty in putting ourselves in a perspective and mindset of our brethren in Mitzrayim is faced by all of us and has been faced by successive previous generations. So what do we have to grab onto to put ourselves in the mindset of oppression at the hands of the Mitzriyim?

Maybe it’s the Shoah, or the pogroms of Eastern Europe, or the Arab blood-libelous rumors which whipped Muslims into a frenzy leading to pogroms such as the Murder of scores of Jews in Hevron in 1929.

Through our history, the number of citings of oppression and death are voluminous. But, as generations come and go and as succeeding generations become removed from an era, the ability to fall back on an era’s perspective lessens.

So how can we place ourselves in the perspective and mindset when we, who live in a different era and in different places, such that we can’t identify with the pogroms and persecutions of past? Do we try to project ourselves in the place of an abused or battered spouse or in the place of the recipient of other forms of abuse? It seems that one not exposed to such things would have great difficulty conjuring up such. Or what about false imprisonment or political imprisonment or POW imprisonment, i.e. faced by Gilad Shalit or US POWs of the Vietnam era? What about the type or degree of imprisonment endured over these past 25 years by Jonathan Pollard — his first approximately 7 years having been kept in solitary confinement, denied even the light of day during that time?

But a comparative few of us in this generation have lived the trauma of the battered, or of other forms of abuse, or of POWs, or of the retribution and persecution which Pollard has had to endure after being ousted by the Israeli Embassy, imprisoned for life without trial after accepting a bogus, phoney bill-of-goods “plea bargain” resulting from arrest for supplying Israel with security info which the United States was actually bound by treaty to provide.

In reflecting back, in this context, upon the very recent geirush — the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif and the 4 Shomron towns — one can wonder what it was that Hashem had in mind in August, 2005 for our evicted brethren and for those of us whose hearts and souls cried out in pain together with them as one. This author’s anguish of 4 years and 7 months ago is still too painful, too fresh, too raw. It has not been dulled and obviated yet by passage of time. It is the perspective of the pain and torment felt by our former Gush Katif brethren, and the immense pain felt with them, that this author brings to the Pesach Seder table — this is a taste of the oppression and persecution of Mitzrayim from which we daily wait and daven for the Geula Shlaima in our time.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to stand up to prevent any further evictions of Jews from their homes and to prevent any further handing over of Jewish land to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Meaningful Seder and Chag Same’ach!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.