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Middle East Madness

The fight for democracy is spreading. The people refuse to be enslaved any longer. It started in Tunisia, with a wave of revolt that swept through the Arab world and beyond. The sudden and explosive street protests in Tunisia ousted long-time dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben-Ali. Within no time the protests had spread to Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office. Like houses of cards toppling, the revolution soon engulfed all of North Africa and the Persian Gulf states: Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, with no signs of stopping.

Pesach is less than two weeks away, and in Jewish homes around the world we are busily preparing for this holiday. As the events play out in the Middle East, we can’t help but reflect on our own nation’s journey from servitude to freedom.

Send out My people, and let them sacrifice to Me in the desert.” The Jews demanded to leave Egypt, where although enslaved, they enjoyed a level of physical comfort that could not be replicated in the desert. In fact, after their release from Egypt, time and again they complained loudly about the loss of these comforts. Yet their need to be free, to set their own destiny, to serve G-d as they pleased, trumped their desire for worldly enjoyment.

Our sages say that before the Jews left Egypt, a civil war broke out between the firstborn in Egypt and Pharaoh’s soldiers. The firstborn knew that G-d would carry out his threat to slay them if the Jews were not redeemed, but Pharaoh still remained stubborn. He would not let the Jews go until he saw the plagues come to pass with his own eyes. Our sages explain that G-d “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” so he would personally experience G-d’s vengeance for the suffering he had caused to the Jews.

In our days, the people of the Middle East are rising up against the despots who have kept their own people enslaved and were a pillar of support for terrorism and Jihad. The fall of these dictators gives hope to oppressed people throughout the world, that very soon, their own day of peace and freedom is dawning.

We are on the verge of celebrating the holiday of our freedom, the holiday that marks our transition from an enslaved, downtrodden mass to an independent nation, who accepted G-d’s dominion around a mountain. We did not exchange one form of servitude to another; rather, as our sages say, we became free through study of Torah. Free of worldly inhibitions, cares, wants and desires. Free of the pressure to live and act according to the dictates of others, but only according to our inner conscience, the voice of G-d within us.

As we prepare ourselves for the holiday of Pesach, let us pray for the safety and wellbeing of our brethren and all humankind across the globe. Let us pray to G-d to send us the ultimate revelation of Moshiach, which will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for eternity.

 

 


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