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.