Tuesday, January 1, 2008

VaEirah - Who's The Slave

The early parshiot of Shmot contain one blatant and one subtle story of slavery. Let’s look at the subtext, the bondage of a different type, which plays a crucial role in our tale of redemption.

Par'oh's refusal to release Am Yisrael is perplexing in light of the devastation he suffered. Par’oh becomes more understandable in light of the personality of an addict. For example: An alcoholic typically causes his downfall, then swears to make amends, then continues to destroy his life. He can't stop. Despite rationally knowing there would be consequences to his actions, Par'oh couldn't control himself. He felt compelled to pursue self-destructive behavior. Like an alcoholic.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski suggests that to different degrees we all mirror an alcoholic's personality. He proposes reading any book on alcoholism and substituting "alcohol" with "yetzer hara". The result would be a treatise on our daily struggles and temptations. Our compulsive drives do not differ greatly from those of any addict. Food, TV, gossip, sleep, video games, sports, movies, sex, politics, power… Each of us risks becoming hostage to our own physical selves like the despot who enslaved our ancestors in Egypt.

In Twerski On Spirituality, the author calls addiction"the most absolute type of slavery the world has ever known." This is because a person under the influence "is likely to do things he never thought possible, but when he is in the grip of addiction, the drug is a ruthless totalitarian dictator." Under his regime "the addict completely loses the unique human distinction of being free." Despite America's title as land of the free, many appear free while really, like Par’oh being enslaved in the worst possible way - to oneself.

A friend of mine pointed out the following: Being the addict that he was Par'oh (like all of us sometimes) dealt with his own insecurity by feigning power and control. Chazal tell us that he claimed to have no imperfections, and would go down to the Nile early in the morning to use it as a bathroom. He was enslaved to his role of a deity. He was consumed by baseless fear of Bnei Yisroel taking over. Then he enslaved others. This is not unusual. I suspect we have all seen a bully pick on others because of his own sense of inadequacy. The more Par'oh fought to claim control, the more he lost control, like the common addict, like the common man.

May we be blessed to learn from the overt and covert varieties of slavery present in our sojourn in Mitzrayim. May we win the battle against slavery of all forms.

If this thought was useful to you, please let me know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Fleischmann is the best rabbi in da world dawwgggggg