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What can we Learn from the Exodus about Israel’s Current Civil Crisis?

Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin mines Biblical history to gather insights about the Jewish People’s past and today’s civil strife in the State of Israel. He asks all of us to unite as one: a unified people is a strong people!

Hag Pesach Sameah!



Shalom, as you can see from this pile of files, I have enough material about Pesah for many videos and many courses.

However, in light of the civil strife in Israel for the past three months, I have decided to ask a new question this year: What can we learn from the story of the Exodus that can help us weather the current storm in the State of Israel?

There is a famous saying which Israelis love to quote:

מעשב אבות – סימן לבנים

“The experiences of our ancestors are a sign for their descendants.”

This expression was originally coined by the Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eidels) in the 17th Century, but goes back to Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman) in the 13th Century.

There are quite a few similarities between the behavior of the Children of Israel in the desert for 40 years after the Exodus and the behavior of Am Israel, the Jewish people, in the State of Israel since 1948.

In the desert we had the phenomenon of the “telunot Bnai Yisrael”, the murmurings or complaints of the Jewish People, which were almost endless:

Exodus Chapter 16 – They complain they had no food; God gives them manna from Heaven.

Exodus Chapter 17 – Massa u’merivah, They complain that they have no water and God gives them water.

Exodus Chapter 32 – Egel Hazahav, The Golden Calf, including Moses and the sons of Levi who actually fought with those who had worshipped the Golden Calf and killed 3,000 of them.

Bemidbar (Numbers) Chapter 11 – Tavera, when a fire comes out of Heaven and destroys the Jewish People because of their complaints. Later on in that same chapter, we read of the quail which fed the Jewish people in the wilderness because of their complaints.

Bemidbar (Numbers) Chapters 13 & 14 – The episode of the spies and then a group of Jews try to force their way and make Aliyah to the Land of Israel without God’s approval and are defeated.

And finally Bemidbar (Numbers) Chapter 16 – The story of Korah and his followers, who actually rebel against Moses and Aaron and God.

And what about the State of Israel since 1948?

Here too, we had many such incidents in the past 75 years.

We had the episode of the Altalena in June 1948, immediately after the Declaration of the State of Israel.

We had the tremendous disagreement about the German reparations in 1952.

We had the episode of the Israeli Black Panthers in 1971, who demanded equality for Edot Hamizrah, the Jews from Oriental lands, with the Ashkenazim.

The Mahapakh – “The Revolution” in Israeli politics in 1977.

The Oslo Accords in 1993.

The Rabin Assassination in 1995.

The Gaza Disengagement in 2005.

The cost of living demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people in 2011.

And finally, the Judicial Revolution during the past three months.

God took the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, but for 40 years many of them continued to think and act like slaves. You can take a person out of slavery, but it is hard to take slavery out of a person.

Since 1948, we have been privileged to witness the ingathering of the exiles – Kibbutz Galuyot – in the State of Israel, but that does not mean that we are one united people.

Many of the politicians leading the so-called ‘Judicial Revolution’ these past few months have stated very clearly that their motives are ethnic — to show the Ashkenazi elite that the Edot Hamizrah are now in charge, or revenge for the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

I can only say to all of this: Lo zo haderekh! This is not the correct path. The correct path is that of President Isaac Herzog: to sit and to talk and to compromise — however long it takes.

Rabbi Yehoshua said in the Tractate of Rosh Hashanah (folio 11a)

.בניסן נגאלו, בניסן עתידין להיגאל

In the month of Nisan we were redeemed from Egypt; and in the month of Nisan we are destined to be redeemed by the Messiah.

And what will lead to Geulah, what will lead to redemption? We have a very clear answer in Midrash Tanhuma (at the very end of the Buber edition):

הקדוש ברוך הוא עתיד להאיר לכם אור עולם

“God will in the future shine upon you the light of the world.”



כשתהיו כולכם אגודה אחת

When you will all be one bundle.

בנוהג שבעולם

According to the custom of the world

.אם נוטל אדם אגודה של קנים, שמא יכול לשברם בבת אחת

If you take a bundle of reeds can you break them all at once? Of course not.

ואילו נוטל אחת אחת, אפילו תינוק יכול ומשברם

But if you take one reed at a time, even a child can break that reed.

.וכן אתה מוצא שאין ישראל נגאלים עד שיהיו אגודה אחת

And so you find that the Jewish People will only be redeemed if they become one bundle.

The secret of redemption is that the Jewish People become Agudah ahat, one bundle.

The secret of redemption is for us to stop fighting with each other and start working with each other.

As we recite the Haggadah at the Seder this year, may we remember that the only way achieve true redemption in the State of Israel is to work together.

Flowering in the rocks

Hag Sameah from Schechter!

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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