From Bondage To Freedom

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From The Other Side Of The Bench

By David J. Seidemann, Esq.

Last week I dealt with the timely topic of Passover and asked a question of my own not found in the Haggadah. For those who are so busy cleaning for Pesach that you forgot last week’s question, I will remind you. I asked, why is it that G‑d did not cure Moses of his speech impediment before sending him to Pharaoh? Surely G‑d had one more miracle in his arsenal.

I was pleased to meet someone this week who was struggling with a particular difficulty who took great solace in the answer I provided, and I am grateful that she took time out of her schedule to inform me of, in her own words, “a massive hashkafic transformation.” Which brings me to the question that is bothering me this week as we edge closer to the Passover Seder.

The sequence of events as explained by our sages is that the Children of Israel ate the matzah, the maror, and the Paschal offering in the earlier part of the evening. They were released from the grasp of Pharaoh’s dominion and control as slaves at around midnight, and they exited Egypt the following morning in broad daylight.

The joke in my family is that if I have a flight at 7 p.m., I am at the airport at 5 p.m.—the day before! I am usually not late for a plane, train, or bus or any appointment. I don’t like being in a rush. I like arriving at the airport in plenty of time to get through security multiple times if necessary and relax for a few hours by the gate. One usually does not miss a flight if he or she is there early. Usually one only misses a flight if one arrives after it departs.

So if the Jews were in such a hurry to get out, and Pharaoh had issued the “all clear” at around midnight, why didn’t they take the red-eye out of Egypt? Why did G‑d book them on that early-morning businessman’s special? What happened to that rush we heard so much about? And if you argue that we were still slaves at night, why then were the Hebrews celebrating the holiday meal, complete with the Paschal offering, before Pharaoh decreed them to be a free nation?

For some reason, G‑d wanted us to celebrate a freedom meal while we were still slaves but could not extricate us from Egypt until after a few hours of being free men had passed. Is there any way to reconcile those two phenomena?

My first attempt at solving this dilemma brought me to the thought along the lines of “You can take the Jews out of Egypt but it’s harder to take the Egyptian culture out of the Jews.” Meaning that we could not physically leave Egypt till daylight so that we could spend a few hours, from midnight till daylight, as free men.

The problem with that hypothesis is that how much of the Egyptian culture or the slave mentality can be expected to dissipate in just a few hours? Not much, I would presume. And moreover, if the slave mentality was still dominating our forefathers the night before they departed, why were they celebrating the Passover feast and sacrifice as slaves? You can’t have it both ways. If they were free men, let them go; if they were still slaves, do not allow them to eat from the Paschal lamb.

• • •

A few months ago, a young man came to speak to me. Why me, I don’t know. Be that as it may, he informed me that he had been dating a young lady for a few months and really liked her. After a few months, when matters had become quite serious, he found out something about her which prompted him to break up with her. He was upset, but he felt he had no choice. He asked me if I thought he had made the proper decision. I discussed the matter with him for a few minutes and assured him that, at least in my opinion, he had made the right choice. I also shared with him that he was fortunate to have found out about her issue now, before a marriage and possibly children were on the table.

He then asked me if I thought he would ever find someone to marry. I told him that I believe his thoughtful and well-reasoned approach to ending his recent relationship was a good indication that he could use his heart and mind properly to select another woman who could be his wife one day. He called me a few days ago to tell me that he took great inspiration from our chat and that the bitterness and pain of his experience is precisely what gave him hope for the future.

• • •

The Passover meal enjoyed by our forefathers in Egypt was not a meal of celebration. It was a meal of hope. Only one still mired in slavery can express hope. The free man is already free, with no further need to hope.

But hope alone cannot bring you to where you want to be. Hope alone does not create greatness. Greatness is attained when one actually lifts himself out of bondage and embarks on a new path. And that transition can be accomplished, yes, in those few hours between the darkness of midnight and the light of day. v

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or

ds@lawofficesm.com.

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