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G-d knew that the Hebrews leaving Egypt had no clue about how to take care of themselves, just like so much of society today. They didn’t know how to hunt, how to sow, or how to reap. All they knew was that they were really ticked off that they’d bargained for freedom in leaving Egypt, and once they left, they were sure they were going to die. They didn’t even know how to find the basic survival necessities: food and water. And because they felt helpless, they complained and protested that they had ever left Egypt; they assumed they were doomed to die in the desert.
But G-d knew what was happening among the people. He also knew He would need to develop trust with the people; they needed to know that they would have food in the desert. So, He rained down manna for many years, with a number of pre-conditions: the people had to take only what they needed; they couldn’t hoard their share. They had to follow the laws in order to benefit from the gifts He would give.
Gradually, the people learned discipline. Oh yes, they still complained; people whose expectations aren’t met precisely can become demanding and ungrateful. But over time, they came to understand that receiving food, water and meat required them to follow the law, setting limitations, and even working together.
Eventually, the Hebrew people began to take on more and more responsibility. G-d assigned them the task of building a home for Him, where He could “dwell among them.” They learned the value of creating something beautiful; of contributing from their own wealth; of working together as a community. They learned how to trust the power of Divine Wisdom, while also recognizing their own power when at war against an enemy. All the while, they were following the rules and laws that G-d had given them, with significant lapses, while worshipping Him alone.
When the time was right, when they reached their destination, they learned it was critically important to become self-reliant. They trusted in G-d, while they learned to trust in themselves and each other. They learned they were capable of transforming from tribes into a people. They realized they could provide for their own sustenance by planting fields and harvesting fruit trees. They experienced the joy of being self-reliant and productive human beings.
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In G-d’s great wisdom, He knew that if the Hebrews were spoon-fed indefinitely, He would not have the kind of people He needed to serve him. The people would be spoiled, demanding, and dependent—forever! In which case, if He was looking for partners to continue creation, He would be completely out of luck.
So He found the delicate balance of helping the Hebrews through the early stages of their freedom, through all their missteps and idolatry. He even realized that they were not mature enough to enter the land of Israel, even with His help. So, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. At that point, He helped them build a nation, a tiny but resilient community. And he eventually took away all the extra benefits he’d given them because it was time for them to rely on themselves and each other.
He created laws that were demanding but fair; a work ethic that they understood and practiced; and the opportunity for an intimate relationship with each other and with Him, that would be the basis of their obeying and serving Him, as well as serving the world.
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The tragedy among Jews is that we were chosen to spread these tenets among all the nations: self-sufficiency, responsibility, accountability, and the Noahide laws. Although many liberal Jews think they’ve met this mandate by lighting Hanukah candles or eating potato latkes, the premise of serving G-d by teaching these tenets to everyone has been lost in the socialist mandate. Perhaps we could call them JINOS: Jews in name only.
When we think of society today and its demands for entitlements and cradle-to-grave care, it’s clear that the people are naïve and misguided; having become secular, the early lessons learned in the desert have been lost. They may have their every need met, and that is satisfying for a while. But in a country that has already experienced wealth, freedom and independence, I wonder if they may eventually realize what they have sacrificed.
Unfortunately, our leaders have no interest in creating a self-sufficient and hardy citizenry. They are only interested in controlling the population to make them compliant. They are not interested in giving people the opportunity to lead rewarding and productive lives. They are not interested in strengthening our country to be one of the most powerful in the world.
Obedience is all they want.
Dependence is what they are striving for.
We only need to follow their rules.Published in