“We must be free–not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”–William Faulkner
A huge demonstration gathered in front of the Soviet Consulate on Green Street in San Francisco. There were portraits of men and women, who were trapped or imprisoned in the Soviet Union, whom people in the crowd had never met, but the crowd loudly demanded–“Let my people go!” Those events took place over 1969 to 1972, at the same time that our family challenged Soviet authorities to allow us to immigrate to Israel. In my book, “The Mortgage Game”, you can read about how we managed to leave the Soviet Union. After living in Israel for almost 9 years, we moved to San Francisco and met many of those, who protested on our behalf.
The root of the belief that authorities can be challenged and that there is a possibility of achieving a different “reality”, lies in the events described in the Torah.
Next week, Jewish people are going to celebrate the first night of Passover on the evening of Monday, March 25th. During the dinner, called a Seder–which translates to “order”–the story of events, took place according to historians, 3283 years ago will be retold for the benefits of the next generation.
It is the story about an Egyptian Pharaoh, who was afraid that the Hebrews, the people who lived in the land of Egypt for many years, would side with the enemy in a future war. His solution was to weaken and dispirit them through hard labor. Finally after many years of hard work and suffering, the Hebrew slaves remembered that it was the God of their ancestor, Jacob, son of Isaak, and Grandson of Abraham, who actually brought them there. Since Jacob’s name, after he fought with an angel, and prevailed, was changed to Israel, those Bnei Israel–the Children of Israel–complained and prayed to their God asking for salvation from their back breaking labor.
God heard their complaints and chose an 80 year old shepherd by the name Moses to go to Egypt and demand from the all powerful ruler of one of the biggest countries, at that time—in the world, to release his workers and let them leave his country after being there for 210 years. At the beginning, Moses refused to take upon himself the impossible task, but God got angry at him, and offered his brother Aaron as a partner to deal with the Pharaoh.
Then God, who called himself “Hashem”–which translates to The Name, instructed the brothers to tell the Pharaoh:
“You shall say to him Hashem, the God of Hebrews has sent me to you, saying: Send out my people that they may serve Me in the wilderness.“
Those powerful words, which were transformed into “Let me people go”, resonated for thousands of years, became the symbols for liberty from any oppression.
But when the Hebrew slaves reached the Red Sea, they soon found out that the Egyptian army was pursuing them, and that only praying (crying) would not save them. “Hashem” said to Moses:
“Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth.“
Praying is not enough–one has to act and move forward. Three months after leaving Egypt, the former slaves arrived at Mount Sinai–where Moses received the 10 commandments from God. However, it took 40 years for the Children of Israel to reach their destination. During those years, the old generation–which had a slave mentality, died. The young people who grew up in the desert, finally took over the land across the Jordan River, which became known years later as the Land of Israel.
In spite of its significance as a place where Moses received instructions and knowledge from God, which became known as Five Books of Moses or the Torah–which translates to “instruction”– no one knows exactly where Mount Sinai is located. The wise men tell us that the Torah instructions for life belong to everyone, and the place where these were given is just a humble hill in the desert and could look like this one that I photographed on my trip to Israel in 2009.
Years later, its significance as a God presence was transferred to the Temple in Jerusalem. Nowadays, people from all over the world come to the Wailing Wall, a remnant of the Temple, which was destroyed 2000 years ago by the Romans, to connect with God and leave little prayers written on notes that they stick between the cracks in the old Temple wall. But over thousands of years, the memory of the Exodus and the story of the liberation are passed on from one generation to another.
Not everyone can get to Jerusalem. However since God is where we let Him in, I pray for the economy to improve and for more people to find jobs they enjoy. I pray for interest rates to stay low long enough for properties to appreciate and to increase in value, and to enable more borrowers to refinance and improve their cash flow. And I pray for the regulators, who create a lot of unnecessary hardships, to leave the mortgage industry and allow it to flourish again.
Let my people enjoy their lives.
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