Passover is the most festive of all the Jewish holidays. It is a celebration of freedom, when the people of Israel became liberated from the yoke of slavery in Egypt. Back then, the Hebrews united around Moses, and despite internal disagreements, maintained their unity. The reward for their insistence on staying together despite their disputes was not only their freedom, but the declaration of their peoplehood by God.
Today, on the eve of Passover, I am sad to say that we have none of the unity our ancestors had fought for; power struggles reign supreme, and everyone wants to be king. This is a recipe for inviting a modern-day Pharaoh to come and rule over us.
Israel has many enemies. Iran has sworn to destroy it, its proxy terror groups incessantly try to maim it, international movements such as BDS try to cripple its economy, and countries that pretend to be friendly finance anti-Israel movements. Yet, none of these entities pose an existential threat. The only existential threat to Israel is its social division.
Two thousand years ago, we lost our sovereignty due to baseless hatred of each other. For the past two millennia, we have not healed that hatred one bit. If anything, it has only intensified.
Therefore, before we begin to work on “improving” the political situation in Israel, we must understand what it is we must improve. Today, almost everyone takes sides in Israel’s political altercation. Everyone thinks that the country’s deterioration is the other side’s fault.
But the country is not deteriorating because of the Left or because of the Right, if we even know what these words mean today. The country is deteriorating because the Left hates the Right, and vice versa, the secular hate the religious, and the other way around, the rich despise the poor and the poor hate the rich, and the only winner in these—and countless other divisions in Israeli society—is hatred.
Back in Egypt, Pharaoh loved Joseph. He entrusted his entire kingdom in Joseph’s hands, and at that time, the people of Israel were happy in Egypt. When Joseph died, the Israelites became divided and wanted to disperse among the Egyptians. This is when “a new” Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, arose and began to afflict Israel.
Division also caused the coming of Nebuchadnezzar, who sent Israel to the Babylonian exile. Internal hatred intensified even more during the time of the Second Temple, and brought upon us the Roman general Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the relics of the people of Israel in Judah. Even before the onset of the Inquisition, Spanish Judaism experienced an extended period of growing disunity, and the same trend was visible before the rise of Hitler to power.
It is convenient to believe that our enemies appear without cause, but if we ever want to break the vicious circle of periodical expulsions and extinctions, we must begin to search our souls and find where and how we contribute to the empowerment of our haters. If we do so, we will find that our sages have been telling us since the inception of our nationhood that we empower our haters with our hatred of each other.
If we realize that Pharaoh is alive today, governing our hearts and pitching us against each other, enslaving us to his whims and making us think that we are working for ourselves, when in fact we are working for him, then we might choose to follow Moses, the voice of unity within us that says, “No matter how we feel about each other, we are one nation.” It is our choice whom to empower. If we keep empowering Pharaoh, our internal slavery to him will become an external destruction. If we empower Moses and choose unity above all else, our good future is guaranteed.