Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review March 31, 1999 /14 Nissan 5759

Don Feder

JWR's Pundits
Tony Snow
Dr. Laura
Paul Greenberg
David Corn
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase
At Passover, Egypt is a state of mind

(JWR) ---- (
IT HAS BEEN ESTIMATED that by the year 2005 there will be 1 billion personal computers -- that isn't a typo -- on this on-line planet.

The speed of change is hard to compute. In a world that seems to accelerate with each revolution, the timeless holiday of Passover beckons.

The Passover meal, or Seder, may be the world's oldest continuously observed religious ritual, dating back over 3,300 years.

Jews with almost no other connection to Judaism will have a Seder this evening. Jews whose observance of Jewish law is indifferent at best will scrupulously abstain from eating bread and other products of five prohibited grains for the next 8 days.

Passover has slipped into the popular consciousness, in a superficial way.

At a signal from Charlton Heston, Cecil B. DeMille parts the Red Sea. (Jeffrey Katzenberg did it better in his animated feature.) Jews eat tasteless crackers to commemorate the hasty departure from Egypt. There wasn't time to hit a convenience store for proper provisions.

If you think Passover is just about physical liberation (let my people go), you're missing the most important point.

Rabbi Nachum Braverman, author of "The Bible for the Clueless but Curious," notes the Passover Haggadah (that contains the Seder service and recounts the Exodus) doesn't mention Moses. Braverman comments, "Moses is a cipher -- the tool God uses to set his people free."

If Moses is a cipher, Pharaoh is a foil. In his initial confrontation with the Levite, the ruler of the Upper and Lower Nile haughtily inquires, "Who is G-d that I should listen to Him?"

Hand-baked matzah
Other tyrants have flung this question at the heavens. Frederick the Great said G-d is with the side that has the best army. Stalin wondered how many divisions the Pope commands. Blinded by power, princes and potentates can't discern an authority higher than themselves.

Their question is always answered with finality. Hitler died by his own hand, a cornered rat. Stalin raved and cringed on his deathbed. Pharaoh perished with his host in the Red Sea.

Ultimately, Passover is about sovereignty. The rabbis often ask rhetorically: "Why thank G-d for taking us out of slavery? He put us there!"

(See the concluding chapters of Genesis.)

He did so to fulfill His design. In a reference that seems oddly out of place, the Haggadah relates, "Once our ancestors (pre-Abraham) worshipped idols." The crucible of Egypt was necessary to burn off the spiritual dross of idolatry.

To manifest His supremacy, G-d had to take everything from the Israelites, so that a totally debased people could be given everything (freedom, dignity, nationhood, land), and one thing no other people had -- a mission.

Slavery is but the most visible form of servitude. In preparation for Passover, the observant Jew will search his home forchametz (food made with yeast or its derivative). It's leaven that gives bread and cake its taste and appeals to our senses.

Bread baked with yeast is compared to the ego, which also becomes inflated. (Rabbi Braverman, "The difference between matzah and a slice of Wonderbread is just a lot of hot air.")

Thus chametz has come to symbolize all of the things that enslave us with their cunning allurements. In the words of the Artscroll Haggadah, it is "the symbol of self-assertion and indulgence."

As our culture becomes richer and more worldly, the forms of bondage multiply -- food, alcohol, drugs, sex, entertainment, money, career, fame.

They control our existence as surely as the edicts of any tyrant. Their incessant demands sting us like the taskmaster's lash. They drive us ceaselessly.

We used to say man will bow to G-d or he will bow to tyrants. That was before the era of mass entertainment and a consumer culture.

Now we say man will worship G-d or he will bow to Hollywood, Madison Avenue, video rentals, the Internet, electronic gadgets, the World Wrestling Federation, the Home Shopping Network, personal autonomy and Dow Jones.

As the observant Jew sweeps bread crumbs from his house, the Passover calls upon us to disavow that which enslaves us, to sweep it from our lives. Egypt is a state of mind.

The rabbis say redemption wasn't completed with the Exodus, or the giving of the Law at Sinai, or the possession of the Promised Land, or the building of the Temple. Its fulfillment is in the future.

Passover celebrates the redemption that was and anticipates the redemption that will be, when the world is at last free of chains -- psychological as well as physical -- when all humanity will acknowledge His dominion.


3/29/99: Could the GOP stand Pat in 2000?
3/17/99: Hollywood's party line in 1999
3/15/99: All bow, the court is in session
3/11/99: In praise of negative campaigning
3/09/99: Day-care study defies common sense
3/04/99: Starship Clinton orbits Kosovo
3/01/99: Public will blot out Broaddrick's accusation
2/25/99: Slick Hillie for Senate would be fun
2/23/99: Fascism in the name of fighting fascism
2/16/99: Was anything learned from the impeachment trial?
2/12/99: Educating the democratic voters of tomorrow
2/10/99: First Amendment doesn't apply to pro-life cause
2/08/99: Dems' triumph over Constitution complete
2/03/99: Blood of victims will drown out breakfast prayers
2/01/99: Without a home the heart knows no rest
1/29/99: Poster boy for term-limits
1/27/99: The 'so-what' defense in the City of Saints
1/25/99: Whose choice?
1/21/99: Censure worse than nothing
1/18/99: Words can`t dignify a dishonored presidency
1/13/99: Conservatism "with a heart" is conservatism without a head
1/11/99: If he isn't removed, watch out for Bill!
1/07/99: We can learn a lot from Teddy
1/05/99: Monica and a call to modesty
12/30/98: Will Bubba get away with it again?
12/28/98: Zionist dream alive and well on West Bank
12/18/98: Impeach or abandon the Rule of Law
12/16/98: Clinton moves Middle East closer to war
12/14/98: Why we lost interest in the homeless
12/10/98: No place at table for conservatives
12/07/98: The day America lost its innocence
12/02/98: Pilgrims Pilloried in streets of Plymouth
11/30/98: Caribbean dogpatch not a good candidate for statehood
11/25/98: Will Vermont force gay marriage on the nation?
11/23/98: The ACLU wants your kids to get a love life
11/18/98: Why liberals hate tobacco and guns more than drugs and crime
11/16/98: "Pleasantville" a countercultural morality play
11/13/98: Ads are a tough sell for abortion
11/09/98: Why gutless Republicans lost
11/06/98: Historians against the Constitution
11/02/98: Loving response to a hateful conference
10/28/98: Professor Death will fit right in at Princeton
10/26/98: Plymouth caves to Pilgrim foes
10/21/98: On '98 election, keep a critical eye on polls
10/19/98: Clinton could yet be 'prosperity president'
10/16/98: Working families -- Dems love 'em (stuffed)
10/09/98: Majoring in 'weirdness'
10/07/98: Friends of Billy Clinton
9/29/98: Letter from ex-soldier highlights defense peril
9/28/98: Answering arguments against impeachment
9/18/98: The nation that doesn't exist
9/14/98: Bubba isn't the only one who should be ashamed
9/11/98: Resolution of Clinton crisis will define national character
9/09/98: We're still just wild about Harry
9/07/98: Mexican banditry didn't end with Pancho Villa
9/02/98: Clinton forgives us!
8/31/98: Ashcroft's plain talking touches responsive chord
8/26/98: Public opinion be damned
8/24/98: Why liberals condone Clinton's lies
8/20/98: Time to move on -- to impeachment
8/12/98: With Bubba in the sexual privacy zone
8/10/98: The truth won't set Clinton free
8/06/98: Truth about Hiroshima is incontrovertible
8/04/98: Clinton not the first hollow president
7/30/98: "Small Soldiers" -- a fractured Vietnam allegory
7/27/98: Crime wave hits hometown
7/22/98: Love in an Internet fishbowl
7/20/98: Ads bring ex-gay movement out of closet
7/15/98: Brian and Amy -- the children of Roe
7/13/98: Why are we scared of obnoxious 'activists?'
7/6/98: Fonda still resists reality
7/1/98: New York blesses domestic partnerships
6/29/98: Teddy and Calvin stood for virtue
6/24/98: Will Clinton betray Taiwan?
6/22/98: Big tobacco? What about big casinos?
6/15/98: Religion -- God for what ails you
6/10/98: Planning Clinton's China itinery
6/8/98: Republicans' Custer offers advice
6/4/98: Oh, Dems Christian-bashers!
6/2/98: Goldwater did conservatives more harm than good
5/27/98: A Clinton-hater confesses
5/15/98: Giuliani's assault on marriage
5/13/98: Hillary knows what's best for everyone
5/11/98: To honor her would not be honorable
5/6/98: Conservative chasm: pragmatism vs. worship of marketplace
5/4/98: Anglo-saxon me
4/29/98: Needle exchange programs are assisted-suicide
4/27/98: Chretien's mission of mercy to Fidel
4/22/98: School-choice is a religious freedom issue
4/20/98: Corporate execs deliver body parts to Beijing
4/14/98: National sales tax --- looks better all the time
4/13/98: The U.N. sinister? Hey, where did that idea come from?
4/8/98: Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign
3/30/98: Africa's leaders should apologize
3/25/98: GOP shouldn't look to media for advice
3/22/98: You should care about Clinton's 'private life'
3/19/98: Color-coded reading, product of obsessive minds
3/16/98: Amendment will end exile of G-d from our public lives
3/9/98: Havana will break your heart
3/2/98: Vouchers Terrify Teachers' Union
2/25/98: Presidential politics starts at a resort hotel
2/23/98: Hillary's support comes at a price
2/18/98: How many times must we say "no" to gay rights?
2/16/98: Enoch Powell spoke the truth on immigration
2/11/98: Bubba behaving badly
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy

©1999, Creators Syndicate