Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “One who relates to himself strictly as an individual will never leave Egypt.”

Imagine a Jew living in Egypt who is suddenly forced into slavery and ordered to work with mortar and bricks.

These decrees are certainly not pleasant for him, so what does he do?

The first thing he thinks of is how to advance in rank – how to be appointed a foreman and not merely a regular worker.

After becoming a foreman, he continues to rise in rank becoming a taskmaster, and then rises further in the ranks until he finds a more desirable position.

This Jew sees the problem as a personal one – a problem connected to his place and his personal situation – and he relates to the problem correspondingly.

From his standpoint, the general state of things is, on the whole, in order.

Therefore, if he is not content with where he is, or if something is bothering him, he adapts by simply changing his position, shifting to a more personally comfortable place, but doing nothing to fundamentally change his situation.

One who relates to himself strictly as an individual will never leave Egypt.

He manages to convince himself that he has it good – so things are good for him; why should he change?

Only one who is aware of his situation, who understands that he is in exile, has a chance of leaving it for the “good and spacious land.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz