Let’s face it, with all this talk and walk for democracy, slavery has been given a bad rap.
The fact is that most of the world consists of slaves. And no wonder: Slavery is often a mutual bargain. It has plenty of advantages. Serving a master might start out annoying or even painful, but after a while you get to experience the good stuff.
1. A slave gets fed. It’s not that the master is a good guy, it’s just that he’s got no choice. No food means no work.
2. A slave gets somewhere to live. He also gets clothes.
3. A slave is protected. No need to buy a gun or learn Kung fu. The master has an investment and he doesn’t intend anybody else to harm it.
4. A slave gets time off. Same reason as No. 1
5. A slave gets a wife or live-in girlfriend. The master wants more slaves and that’s an order.
For well over a century, the best master has been the United States. The Land of the Free contained all the diversions for the slave to forget his lowly status. You had Disney, Coney Island, Hollywood, Netflix, Yankee Stadium. You could say stupid stuff on Twitter, flex your abs on TikTok, talk trash on Instagram. In fact, a slave in the US could make other people think he’s not a slave — maybe he’s important. Maybe he’s president.
Little wonder that slaves do not want to be set free. Freedom can lead to chaos and disappointment. Take a look at South Africa. Forty-five years of apartheid made black people feel like nothing. For the last 30 years, there has been black rule. But there is no electricity, social services, rule of law and you don’t know what color water you get when you turn on the tap.
Same with the tens of millions of serfs in Russia. Sure, they could be woken up at 2 a.m. to get the master a glass of water. But the serf could do whatever he wanted because he had the keys to the pantry and everything else. Perhaps that is why the serfs as well as less fortunate Russians embraced Communism after World War I. It was better than starving — or so they thought. Of course, the joke was on them. They were slaves and they starved.
Not surprisingly, many Jews have bought into the slave dream hook, line and sinker. After all, the Jew could show his master that he’s a better slave than the stupid gentiles. His master might even stop calling him a slave and describe him as an “aide” or “deputy.” The Jew might get a suit, a fast car, even first class on airlines. That sure would impress the Goldbergs.
Throughout history, every dictator wanted Jews around them. As Stalin, who had Jewish sons-in-law, would quip, “The scared Jew is the most productive of all.” And what good is a slave if he can’t produce?
Given all this, I can’t understand why we have this holiday called Passover, or the festival of freedom. Who wants freedom when it involves responsibility, commitment and devotion? After thousands of years, the Jews got slavery down pat through pretense and flattery. We can be anything the master wants. We can change our name and language to his; adopt his religion, marry his daughter. Beat that.
The reason the Torah has commanded us to be free is something that is not shared by any other people. Others can be slaves all their lives. Their line of slavery can be eternal. Their masters appreciate them, and they go about their business quietly. Indeed, these slaves are the best salesmen for others to become slaves.
The Jews can’t be slaves precisely because their masters won’t allow this. Our history has shown that soon after slavery comes genocide. Pharaoh might have been the first. But he was followed by such luminaries as Haman, Titus, Crusaders, Nicholas, Hitler, Stalin. The list is long.
Queen Esther told her husband King Ahasuerus, “For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
But that wasn’t Haman’s plan: With the king’s approval and cash, Haman wanted the Jews dead — slaves and all. The same went for every dictator we’ve lived under.
Is this a coincidence? The Torah quotes G-d as telling the Children of Israel the facts of life. Fact No. 1: You, the Children of Israel, are my slaves. Nobody else’s. Do you know Me? I am the one who liberated you in Egypt. Regardless of your behavior, I won’t allow you to remain in slavery. And if you insist, you will be wiped off the face of the earth. Thank you, but there are already enough slaves on the planet.
Morris Jacob Raphall was a rabbi and scholar who lived in New York during the American Civil War in 1861. A debate had erupted among Jewish leaders on whether slavery was moral. Raphall, who spent much of his life defending Jews — whether in Damascus or London — published a sermon that redefined the question.
No, my friends, “Cotton is not king and human thought is not king. Hashem alone is king and his royalty reigneth over all….If they [US leaders] truly and honestly desire to save our country, let them believe in G-d and His Holy Word, and then when the authority of the Constitution is to be set aside for a higher Law, they will be able to appeal to the highest Law of all…
So, we might not like it. It might not be cost-effective. It might be downright annoying. But we serve only one master. And it doesn’t come with a picture of George Washington.