Follies of Freedom

Beshalach

You’ve won the lottery. You have just won the opportunity to wreck your life, it is a ‎fact that instant winners rapidly acquire new problems: Marital disharmony, drug ‎problems and lack of purpose. Many wind-up losing their newfound wealth, ‎squandering money on lavish clothes, fancy cars and alcohol (and drug) fueled ‎parties. Why is this the fate of otherwise sensible people? What happened to their ‎deliberate decisions and common sense?‎

Africa is a mixture of the exotic, the primitive and the dangerous. I dream of the day ‎I will be able to visit this exquisite continent. When I think of South Africa – in ‎particular – I have mixed feelings. The landscape is breathtaking, blending beautiful ‎flora with a magnificent mountain vista. This is nature in its glory. Just thinking ‎about this fills me with a longing and a desire to feast my eyes on these treasures. ‎But, I am also filled with sadness. South Africa is not a safe place; crime is rampant, ‎and locals live with a siege mentality. It wasn’t always like that, in the space of a ‎single generation, the country has dangerously descended from law-abiding to ‎lawlessness. Why did South Africa degenerate so rapidly? ‎

Hashem performed miracles for the Jews in Mitzrayim on a scale never hitherto ‎seen. Each and every one of these miracles bore an obvious message. ‎

‎“In order you should know I’m G-d in the midst of the land.”‎ (Shemos 8: 18) 

“In order you should know there is none like Me in the entire world.”  (Shemos 9:14)‎

“In order you should know the earth is G-d’s.” ‎ (Shemos 9 :29)

These messages were seared into their consciousness and ingrained forever in their ‎memories. By the time the Jews left Egypt there were no doubters in their ranks.

Their departure route from Egypt was circuitous. G-d deliberately avoided the ‎shorter route, which would have led them near the Philistines. G-d said, lest the ‎people be afraid of war – with the Philistines – and return to Egypt. ‎

How could these Jews possibly be scared of waging battle? These people had just ‎witnessed 10 miracles on their behalf, i.e. ten cataclysmic nature-altering ‎phenomena. Is it possible that after such experiences they will be afraid of war? ‎Hashem promised to take them from Egypt to Canaan – He took them out of Egypt, ‎who would doubt His bringing them to Canaan? ‎

The goal of every parent is to make their child independent. A parent wishes to see ‎their children complete their education, hold down a job, build a family and be a ‎contributing member of society. Let’s be honest, parents – as well as children – need ‎it for their mental health. To be successful, parents begin by giving the child small ‎responsibilities. Little by little, these responsibilities increase until the child is ‎capable of sailing his own boat. ‎

A friend of mine was asked by his son, to sign a homework assignment. The father ‎was preoccupied with watching the Yankees and promised to see to it later. Dad ‎forgot. Attempting to make amends, he defended his child to the teacher and ‎accepted the blame. The teacher did not excuse the child. “In fifth-grade,” said the ‎teacher “I expect the child to ensure his homework is signed. If dad is busy he ‎should ask again later.” The teacher was teaching the child – and the parent – ‎responsibility. This child is old enough to procure his father’s signature. This is a ‎youngster guided towards independence. ‎

Chicks that leap out of the nest, before they are ready to fly – die. A child who is ‎thrust in the deep-end too early will flounder. It is impossible to change overnight ‎from dependence to independence. Every incremental step of autonomy has to be ‎achieved gradually. Too much freedom too soon is harmful, thus care should be ‎taken to cut the apron strings one fiber at a time. This long process takes a ‎generation, literally. Most children reach independence concurrently with ‎parenthood. ‎

Sadly, lack of correct implementation of this concept, contributed to South-Africa’s ‎undoing. Slavery and servitude were to be abolished; no longer should one man lord ‎over another. All men would have equal opportunity to education, land ownership ‎and arms. These rights, and many others, were granted in an instant. But at what ‎cost? South Africa has now become a dangerous place. A gradual easing of ‎restrictions would have been far more beneficial. It would have given them time to ‎acclimate to total freedom. ‎

Overnight, lottery winners change from rags to riches. Shortly after collecting their ‎checks, they are proud owners of fancy cars and large mansions. They act ‎benevolently too, dishing out loans to friends in need. Rapidly, they whittle down ‎their seemingly unlimited funds. Others find their wealth incites jealousy; quarrels ‎develop in a family which until previously got along. All these pitfalls are avoided by ‎those who become rich gradually. Their increased spending dovetails their ‎incremental growth in wealth. There is no sudden influx of demands for loans and ‎gifts. Friends and relatives don’t sense they ‘deserve’ a piece of the pie. Rich people, ‎by and large, are capable of living within their means.Financial independence is ‎most secure when it develops in stages. ‎

To be a soldier means to fight. To fight means to subjugate the enemy. Winning a ‎war requires this specific mentality of subjugation. It behooves the soldiers to ‎overcome, nay, crush the enemy. Some cultures take this to the extreme by abusing ‎enemy females – all in the spirit of suppressing their foes. This conquering attitude – ‎which is crucial to win – is diametrically opposed to the mindset of a slave. A slave is ‎constantly on the receiving end and depends on his master for all his needs. A slave ‎is the ultimate subordinate; over lorded by his master he has little self discretion ‎and independence.‎

The generation that departed Egypt were a people who were born into slavery. ‎Nurtured in a slave environment, fighting a war was antithetical to their way of ‎thinking. True, they witnessed mighty miracles wrought in Mitzrayim, and as a result ‎of these phenomena they were firm believers, but a believer is not a warrior. At the ‎sight of war they would be inclined to flee rather than fight. G-d, therefore, took ‎them a circuitous route so they would not be able to run back to Egypt. Their ‎children, however, who were born into freedom, lived a life of liberty, and indeed ‎successfully fought the Kings of Canaan. ‎

4 Comments

  1. “This long process takes a ‎generation, literally. Most children reach independence concurrently with ‎parenthood. ‎”

    If this line is original and yours, you need to copyright it. Excellent insight.

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