Deserving Bondage

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Why were the Jews subjected to Egyptian bondage? To recap, Moses once saved the life of a Jew beaten by an Egyptian. Moses carefully investigated the scene, he saw no one present, and killed the Egyptian taskmaster and buried him in the sand. The next day, Moses sought to settle an argument between the infamous, rebellious duo Dathan and Aviram. They responded to Moses, "will you kill us as you killed the Egyptian?" Moses feared the matter was known. But how was this matter made public? The Torah described the scene just before Moses killed the taskmaster (Exod. 2:12), "And he turned this way and that way, and there was no man (present)..." So if there was clearly no one present, who informed on Moses? A Rabbi once taught there is only one possible answer; the Jew who Moses saved was there, he turned in Moses. We are astounded that one who's life was saved would inform on his savior. What causes such unappreciative behavior? The Torah's literal words describing Moses' astonishment are "(Moses said) therefore the matter is known", referring to the disclosure of Moses' murder of the Egyptian. Rashi quotes a medrash on the words "the matter was known", paraphrasing Moses' own thoughts, (Rashi on Exod. 2:14) "The matter has been made known to me on which I used to ponder; What is the sin of the Jews from all the seventy nations that they should be subjugated to back-breaking labor? But now I see they are fit for this." Moses now understood why the Jews were deserving of Egyptian bondage. This ungrateful Jew's backstabbing act answered Moses' question. But this ungrateful nature is not its own trait, but a result of another trait: the act of informing on Moses displays an inability to undermine Egyptian authority; "Even if my brother Jew saves me, Egypt is still the authority who I must respect". It wasn't aggression against Moses, but an unconditional allegiance to Egypt. Even prior to Egyptian enslavement, the Jews' were emotionally crippled, and we predisposed to the phenomenon of identification with their oppressor. The famous Patty Hearst case teaches us of the Stockholm Syndrome, where victims sympathize with their captors. Israel too sympathized with Egypt. Such an identification would cause one to inform on his own friend, even on his own savior Moses. Moses witnessed this corrupt character trait firsthand and realized that Israel justly received the Egyptian bondage as a response. But how does the punishment fit the crime? (You may ask that this is reverse reasoning, as this ungrateful nature came subsequent to bondage, not before. But I answer that Moses too knew this, yet Moses saw something in this ungrateful act which he knew predated Egyptian bondage, answering Moses' question why Israel deserved this punishment.) So what was Moses' understanding of the justice behind Israel's bondage? Seeing that the Jew informed on him even after saving his life, Moses said, "the matter is known", meaning, I understand why the Jews deserve bondage.

The informant was a valid example of the Jewish nation as a whole. He displayed how far the Jews were corrupted into recognizing man, over G-d. He represented to Moses, the sin of the entire people; somehow, in the Jew's mind, man was raised to inappropriate heights, overshadowing G-d's true position. man was so valued, that he would turn on his own brother, his own savior. What was the remedy? The Jews were presented by G-d (through slavery) the opportunity of realizing this sin. Slavery is the one institution where man desires not to be under the grips of man. We read, (Exod. 2:23) "..and their cries ascended to G-d because of the slavery. And G-d heard their cries..." The Egyptian bondage successfully caused the Jews to redirect their hearts towards G-d to remove their affliction. G-d's plan worked, and immediately commenced His plan to save them. Realizing the informant's sin, Moses now had his answer for why the slavery was a just response from G-d. The punishment fit the crime.

We look at Israel today and realize that the Jew saved by Moses has begot many offspring. How many Jews are sympathetic to other nations, to even those oppressing us through murder? How many Jews in Israel's government seek to "talk" to those who butcher infants? How many secular Jews corrupt G-d's justice by treating an enemy like a prospect for peace? King David acted properly. He did not go to the table to talk with his enemies. He rightfully warred against those who might slay his people. If our misguided leaders continue their deadly dance, Israel's people will continue to be murdered.

Moses taught us that the one who beats a Jew deserves death. How much more so those who plan the bus executions of civilians and children, with the most horrifying and painful methods?