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Estimated Time: 45 minutes
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1. Slavery in Egypt
2. What is true slavery and freedom?
3. The impact slavery in Egypt continues to have on us.
Topic: End of Breishit/Beginning of Shmot - Slavery
The story so far…
Okay, it's been a while, so let's do some catching up! We left off with Pharoh have some rather bizarre dreams and looked at how Yosef was able (with the help of Hashem) to interpret them. We saw him get fired from Potifar's house, and slowly rise in the ranks of the jail. After his interpretations of the butler and baker's dreams come true, he asks the butler to remind Pharoh of him and try and get him an early release for good behaviour.
The butler 'forgets' and it is two years later that Pharoh has his dreams and an interpreter is called for - enter Yosef. After impressing Pharoh, he soon becomes 2nd in command in Egypt, and goes about preparing the country for it's 7 years of famine during the 7 years of plenty.
Famine strikes the area, but Egypt is sorted thanks to Yosef's careful planning. The rest of his family however, back in Israel are starving Marvin, and decide to check out the scene in Egypt in the hope of getting some food. Binyamin stays behind with Ya'akov, but off the others trot. Yosef, who recognised his brothers, accused them of being spies. They pleaded their innocence saying,
"We are 12 brothers… we are the sons of 1 man who is in Canaan. Right now the youngest brother is with our father and 1 brother is gone." (Bereishit 42:13)
Yosef explained that the only way they could redeem themselves was for one brother to stay behind and the others to go back and return with their youngest brother. Shimon stayed and the rest ran for it…
They returned home with full sacks of grain, only to realise that the money they had paid with, had been returned. They were a little freaked out by the incident, and begged Ya'akov to let them go back with Binyamin. Ya'akov was not best pleased with this, but soon the food ran out, and there was no other option. Yehuda took responsibility for Binyamin, and off they all set again. Yosef welcomed them back, freed Shimon and invited them all to a meal. Meanwhile he had their sacks filled with grain and his favourite silver goblet planted in Binyamin's sack.
The brothers were accused of stealing and sure enough, Yosef's goblet was found in Binyamin's sack. Yehuda tries to beg for forgiveness explaining to this scary Egyptian leader (Yosef) that there must have been a mistake, and if not, offers himself as a replacement for Binyamin. The 'big scary Egyptian leader' is overcome as the realisation of the change in his brothers sets in, and he reveals himself to be their long lost brother Yosef.
Everyone sing along now, "Then Jacob came to Egypt, no longer feeling old. And Joseph came to meet him in his chariot of gold, of goooold!" There was a huge family reunion, and Pharoh gave them all the area of Goshen to settle in and farm.
Ya'akov grows older and makes Yosef swear that he will bury his father in Canaan with his fathers. Yosef took his 2 sons, Ephraim and Menashe to Ya'akov to receive a bracha. There was the whole crossing over the hands incident as Ya'akov gave the brothers the 'wrong' bracha. He then goes on to bless each of his sons linking each bracha intrinsically to each son. (We often see these depicted in stained glass windows in shuls.) Then seventeen years after Ya'akov settled in Egypt, he passes away at the age of 147. That brings us to the end of Sefer Bereishit - Chazak chazak v'nitchazek! - and opens the way to Sefer Shemot.
Shemot opens with the information that the original number of 'Yidden' that came down to Mitzrayim (Egypt) was 70. Although that whole generation had now died out, they had been "fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them." (Shemot 1:7)
So what happened next?
Let's have a little shteig…
Deliver Us - Song (Prince of Egypt)
Mud… Sand… Water… Straw… Faster!
Mud… And lift… Sand… And pull
Water… And raise up… Straw… Faster!
With the sting of the whip on my shoulder,
With the salt of my sweat on my brow,
Elokim, G-d on high, can you hear your people cry:
Help us now, this dark hour.
Deliver us, hear our call, deliver us,
Lord of all, remember us, here in this burning sand.
Deliver us, there's a land You promised us.
Deliver us, to the promised land…
Yeladi hatov ve'ha-rach, (my good and tender son),
Al tira ve'al tifchad , (don't be frightened and don't be scared)
My son, I have nothing I can give, but this chance that you may live,
I pray we'll meet again, if He will deliver us…
Deliver us, hear our prayer, deliver us, from dispair,
These years of slavery grow, too cruel to stand,
Deliver us, out of bondage and… Deliver us to the promised land…
Hush now, my baby, be still now, don't cry.
Sleep as your rocked by the stream.
Sleep and remember my last lullaby, so I will be with you when you dream.
River, O river, flow gently for me,
Such precious cargo you bear,
Do you know somewhere he can live free?
River, deliver him there…
Brother, you're safe now, and safe may you stay,
For I have a prayer just for you:
Grow baby brother, come back some day,
Come and deliver us too.
Deliver us, send a shepherd to shepherd us…
And deliver us to the promised land.
Deliver us to the promised land.
Shemot 1: 8 - 14
8) A new king, who did not know of Yosef came into power over Egypt. 9) He announced to his people, "The Israelites are becoming too numerous and strong for us. 10) We must deal wisely with them. Otherwise, they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving [us] from the land." 11) They [the Egyptians] appointed taskmasters over them [the Israelites] to crush their spirits with hard labour. They were to build up the cities of Pitom and Ramses as supply centres for Pharoh. 12) But the more they [the Egyptians] oppressed them, the more they [the Israelites] proliferated and spread. The Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13) The Egyptians started to make the Israelites do labour designated to break their bodies. 14) They made their lives [the Israelites] miserable with harsh labour involving mortar and bricks, as well as all kinds of work in the field. All the work they made them do was intended to break them.
- What does it mean, "Who did not know Yosef"? How could anyone, especially Pharoh, not know Yosef and all that he'd done for Egypt?
- Why was Pharoh so intent of 'breaking' the Israelites?
- What do you think the reaction of the Israelites was?
- What relevance does this have to our lives today?
UN Document Series Symbol: ST/HR/
UN Issuing Body: Secretariat Centre for Human Rights
© United Nations
Signed at Geneva on 25 September 1926
ENTRY INTO FORCE: 9 March 1927, in accordance with article 12. The Convention was amended by the Protocol done at the Headquarters of the United Nations, New York, on 7 December 1953; the amended Convention entered into force on 7 July 1955, the date on which the amendments, set forth in the annex to the Protocol of 7 December 1953, entered into force in accordance with article III of the Protocol.
For the purpose of the present Convention, the following definitions are agreed upon:
(1) Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.
(2) The slave trade includes all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves.
The High Contracting Parties undertake, each in respect of the territories placed under its sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection, suzerainty or tutelage, so far as they have not already taken the necessary steps:
(a) To prevent and suppress the slave trade;
(b) To bring about, progressively and as soon as possible, the complete abolition of slavery in all its forms.
Slave: n. captive, person without freedom or personal rights.
Free: a. able to act at will, not under compulsion or restraint; not restricted or affected by…
"How are we to understand this unique freedom of ours? How can we integrate it into the reality of life? In particular, how can we relate it to the advances of our new life, when radiant flashes of national liberty are beginning to shine upon us through the mercy of Hashem?
The difference between the slave and the free man is not merely one of social position. We can find an enlightened slave whose spirit is free and, on the other hand, a free man with the mentality of a slave. Intrinsic freedom is that exalted spirit by which man is inspired to remain faithful to his inner essence, to the spiritual attribute of the Divine Image within him; to feel that his life has a purpose and value. But a person with a slave mentality lives life and harbours emotions, rooted not in his spiritual nature, but in that which is attractive and good in the eyes of another, who rules thus over him, whether physically or by moral persuasion."
Taken from Igrot HaRe'iyah (Rav Kook).
Slavery in Egypt was a difficult time for Ya'akov's descendants, yet it was a turning point in our history and a period that is constantly referred back to. We went down to Egypt as 70 souls and came out as an Am, a People.
For 210 years the Jewish people to be, were made to work endlessly, beaten and subjected to decrees trying to kill off their children. Following the 10 plagues (blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, killing of the firstborn) the released slaves left in a quite spectacular fashion.
"It took one day to get the Israelites out of Egypt. But it took forty years to get Egypt out of the Israelites," said the Rabbi of Kotzk. For a while still to come, Bnei Yisrael clung on to that slave mentality, and perhaps it was only when the next generation entered Israel that they had completely shaken it off.
However, the idea of slavery did not stop there, and remains strong in our heritage. For example, the first of the 10 commandments states:
"I am Hashem, your G-d, who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery." The hagadah explains that, "Bechol dor vador - in every generation, it is a person's duty to consider as though they personally had come out of Egypt…" and whenever we are told to e.g. look after strangers (Kedoshim) the reason given is, because of how we were treated in Egypt.
· Why is it so important to retell and remember our slavery in Egypt?
· What impact has it had, or should it have, on our lives today?
Empathy is a key word here. We have first hand knowledge of what it is like to be slaves, and generally unwanted in a foreign country. Like most things in life, we must learn from our history and past mistakes, to ensure that they are not repeated. We, therefore, have a duty to look out for each other (kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh - all Israel are responsible for each other) as well as for the wider community.
The Tanach is not a textbook, but more of a communal diary of events. Our past is not history (his - story) but memory (me). The events that happened are still relevant to us today. We should use this empathy learnt from our slavery in Egypt in our everyday lives.
Slavery / Freedom
Essay written by: Farang20
A slave is a tool, a total servant, a possession. Being a possession, a slave is required to total obedience to a master who has the power to do anything to a slave.
Freedom means, to carry out one own choices, actions without coercion or constraint by necessity or circumstances. Who are we, then?
You, the reader, and me, the writer of this treatise-are we masters of our fate?
Or are we slaves? If we assess our lives, the control over our movements, our schooling, our earnings, we might become aware that what we call freedom is actually, liberties. We have liberties. To me this means we are allowed to do things, within limits - we have limitations placed upon us by documentation, credentials, licenses, etc. We are, in all respects, not free.
During the Hitler regime, a Jew was stripped naked and displayed for the amusement of Gestapo officers. One officer noted that the hapless victim still wore a wedding ring. The Gestapo officer pointed his pistol at the Jew and ordered him to take it off and throw it away.
As the naked man removed his wedding ring, the last thing he had to bind him to his wife whom he loved and who had been killed a few days before in a gas chamber, the humiliated Jew had a sudden realization
"They can take from me all the possessions I have," he thought, "but they can never take from me my love, my mind and my beliefs - I am free-in spite of them."
The only way by which we can be free is to realize that freedom is our own decision. It is the realization that we live in slavery that allows us to create a revolution - NOT a violent revolution with guns and bombs or protest movements - but the non-violent revolution that BEGINS in the mind. It's virtually impossible to create a revolution by organized resistance in our technological era, and it would be disastrous if violent revolution would somehow, actually succeed. Organized resistance of any nature is not the answer to an improved state of life. How can a slave govern with wisdom and equality? How does a slave react positively to freedom? Not even the wisest government body can do this, simply because they too, are slaves.
The first step is to redefine ourselves. When people redefine themselves, slavery begins to dissipate. Slaves of a benevolent mastery remain in bondage only as long as they despair of freedom's insecurity. We aren't free simply because freedom is a lonely position - this is what's been happening worldwide. It's the way things have been for a very long time. There is a way to be free and remain in contact with the world. Know what freedom really is.
Freedom is an individual phenomena, and nearly everyone is in bondage, a slave. Lastly, to function in freedom is the road to freedom. Freedom is not somewhere else; it is in each of us, and it is a decision, a choice, to be free, no matter where we are, no matter what the circumstances might be.
Oddly, the first step is the hardest. Our society is based on fear and we crave security. A majority of people rely on insurance-the very word implies that we can be assured of protection from the Unknown - medical plans, unemployment insurance, auto insurance social security, funeral and burial plans, enlarged police forces, military might. We are protected from ourselves-seat belts, air bags, fire retardant materials, alarm systems, safe toys for tots, laws to prevent us from doing anything detrimental to ourselves, ad infinitum. It is notable that much of these security programs and systems are mandatory. To be free is to begin by embracing insecurity in small portions. People are doing this in numbers even now through thrill-seeking devices, though much of it is valueless. The first place to begin being free is to realize what freedom is and how much, if any, is yours.
1. Slavery in Egypt
· Prisoners - 2 teams facing each other, a volunteer goes over to the other team who all have their fists out in front of them. The volunteer taps 3 fists, and the third fist that he taps must chase the volunteer back to his team. If the volunteer gets 'home' first, the chaser becomes his prisoner and must stand behind him until he is 'freed'. If the chaser tags him before they reach the other side the volunteer is the chaser's prisoner. A person is freed, if their captor is chosen to chase and they lose. However, if the captor wins the chase, then the other challenger also becomes their prisoner.
· Sing the words to 'Deliver Us'. A trigger into another game, a discussion or merely to start them, thinking about the theme in a format that they will probably recognize.
· If you decide to make human pyramids, please ensure that boys and girls are in separate pyramids and that there is nothing dangerous near them (risk assessment) that might fall on them or that they might fall on. BE VERY CAREFUL!!!
2. What is true slavery and freedom?
· Simon says, Captain's coming etc, are all games in which you don't think, you just act and follow the instructions of the leader or 'task master'
· Freedom scale - put a big sign on one side of the room saying 'the most', and a similarly sized sign on the other side of the room saying 'the least'. In between the 2 signs the kvutsah will form a human scale. Start with an example, such as, how much do you like chocolate and ask everyone to place themselves on the scale. If they love it more than life itself the will stand right under the 'the most' sign, if they hate it they'll be under 'the least', or they could be anywhere in between depending on their taste. Try another few examples to check they understand e.g how much they like footie and English lessons. Once they follow explain that 'the most' means the most free, and 'the least' is the least free, the more bound. Then ask them to place themselves on the scale in different situations eg how free do they feel in school, on the beach, in prison, at the cinema… In between each scenario, highlight people and ask them why they're standing where they are. Get them thinking.
3. The impact slavery in Egypt continues to have on us.
· This can link on from the Freedom scale. Use some of the quotes used in this choveret as discussion points e.g. "Bechol dor vador" - do we ever stop and think about it? Why must we consider that it happened to us? How can we practically do this and what repercussions does it have?
Time: Shabbat and weekday