Straight Talk Parshat Bo: Let My People Go
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Bo(Exodus 10:1-13:16)

Let My People Go

Back in the 1980s, the tag-line for the campaign to free Soviet Jewry came from this week's Torah portion: "Let My people go," Moses said to Pharaoh. However, that's only the first half of the phrase used by Moses. He continued. "Let My people go ... so that they should serve Me [God]." In other words, let them go for a purpose.

In Jewish thinking, freedom alone is not a value. If a man is free and he uses this freedom to hurt others, to abuse his body with drugs, or to waste his life, is such a freedom of value? Better that he be a slave.

Freedom is only of value if there is purpose attached to it. Without purpose, people will be no happier free, than if they were slaves.

Modern Israel has faced many existential challenges throughout its history - wars, terror, UN condemnations. However, in my mind, the greatest threat to Israel today is not Ahmadinejad or Hamas. Israel's greatest threat today lies in its lack of purpose. At least a million Israelis have left the country. Young Israelis are disillusioned. And the universally dirty business of politics is seemingly nowhere dirtier than in the Holy Land. As of today, America is a safer place for Jews and a country where Jews know unprecedented freedom. So what purpose does Israel serve?

Let My people go... so that they may serve Me. Freedom must include a meaningful purpose.

And yet of all nations, for the Jewish people to lack purpose is the most ironic. Our whole history is one of dreaming of a better world and striving toward that goal. From our very inception, the concept of being a 'light to the nations' has inspired and driven us. And we have done so. The values of our Bible have permeated the entire world.

We've had a purpose, and that purpose remains agonizingly within reach. If only we would grasp onto it. A person drowning is tragic. But a person drowning because he is lying down in a few inches of water and all he need do is stand up, is unbearably tragic.

That's what the Jewish people is doing today. We are drowning because young Jews find no meaning in Judaism. No meaning in Judaism?! We are drowning in an inch of water. It's about time that we stood up. And if you're already standing, help someone else get up.

Published: December 25, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Tzipora, January 28, 2012 8:33 PM

Excellent!

(9) David Gr, January 28, 2012 4:19 PM

A Resurgence

I appreciate your concerns about the younger generations. However, like many of the others who commented here, I see a resurgence of purpose in Jewish youth. I believe Aish has done much to help with this. I wish there was something like Aish during my youth. I agree with others on the need to focus on encouraging the resurgence of faith and purpose among Jews all over the world.

(8) Anonymous, January 26, 2012 12:44 PM

Why so negative?

Thank you for the beautiful message about spreading the meaning and purpose in our religion. I don't understand why you had to include such negative comments about Eretz Yisrael. I am currently living in Israel and studying in a public college and truthfully I am in awe with the way Jews live real Jewish lives here. Life in Israel does not compare to life in America or anywhere else. In class here the teachers use examples from Chagim and the Torah. There is no "Saturday" it is simply Shabbat. Israel is the place where the stories of our Tanach took place. Jews who previously never had a place to go now have the opportunity to come HOME! Just as we were comfortable in previous countries, we may be comfortable now living in America- but why would we run away from doing a Mitzvah and reject the land that Hashem gave us? What a zechut to be living in the land that Hashem promised to us. I'm very disappointed in Aish for publishing an article that would discourage our fellow Jews from making Aliyah. Of course our small Country is not perfect, but its ours.

(7) Anonymous, January 26, 2012 12:18 AM

2 freedoms

I learned once that there are 2 types of freedom: a 'freedom from' and a 'freedom to.' 'Freedom from' is the most basic type of freedom, it is freedom from oppression, limitations, slavery etc. but there is no real freedom without the higher level of 'freedom to.' This is freedom with a purpose; it's not just about the freedom from hardship, but its about the freedom to accomplish and do. It is meaningful. 'Freedom to' is the real form of freedom. There is no point in 'freedom from' without the 'freedom to.'

(6) Renee Halevy, January 25, 2012 6:39 AM

...what is really our greatest threat...?

You state that "Israel's greatest threat today lies in its lack of purpose." I think it would be more correct to say that the Jewish Nation's greatest threat today lies in its lack of purpose, not Israel. Obviously the country of Israel has it's problem just as other nations do. But it's the PEOPLE of Israel, the JEWISH NATION that is. As an American who made aliyah and has children serving in the Israeli army, it is fair to say that the entire People of Israel must unite as one to serve and find it's purpose, not just the country. Chodesh tov.

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