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The Jews who stayed behind
According to Rashi, most Jews chose to stay in Egypt during the great exodus
Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet Magazine, has an excellent piece about the Jews who refused to leave Egypt (full article here). She explicates the thoughts of medieval commentator Rashi (based on one word in the Passover Haggadah) that only one fifth of Jews actually left Egypt with the the great exodus; the remaining four fifths (or, according to others, 49/50) chose to stay in slavery over the risk of a new start.
There is a certain deeply-ingrained and highly corrosive human need to be part of the flock, to avoid the risk of being a maverick. This is why we jeer at scapegoats, persecute minorities, and haze conscripts. Scientists are trained to see through the human tendencies and focus on the data, but, as we have seen with this pandemic, they are still human beings and are quite susceptible to this deep-seated human need to be in the majority.
My entire life I have been part of the minority … from seventh grade, when I fought my entire math class and teacher to insist that a square was a degenerate rhombus (they insisted that rhombi need slanted sides, just like in the book), to my calculus class where I was almost kicked out for insisting that the teacher was teaching epsilon-delta proofs wrong (he insisted that students should start at the conclusions and work toward the premises because this was pedagogically easier, although it is logically wrong). It continued when I defended Israel on campus against those who unfairly vilified the country (including one hateful individual who would eventually become a suspected Al Qaeda member), and in my job when I insisted on merit-based decisions against the woke tendencies of academia.
The mob may provide the comfort of sharing blame, but it is capable of unspeakable horror.
Here are some excerpts from Newhouse’s piece:
“What happened to those [Jews] who stayed [in Egypt]? Nothing good. ‘There were among Israel of that generation wicked individuals who did not wish to depart Egypt and they died during the three days of gloom,’ Rashi continues.”
“I think about them when people refuse to accept that beloved blue-chip organizations—the ACLU, the ADL, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International—no longer fight for their own founding values.”
“In an age of uncertainty, it feels good to cast the habit of questioning aside and embrace the idea that the cautious weighing of evidence is unnecessary.”
“Ask yourself why BlackRock—a corporation making it impossible for middle-class Americans to own homes—is draping itself in the language of social justice. Ask yourself why, in fact, so many corporations now all support the same roster of causes.”
“If it’s no surprise that most Jews preferred to stay in Egypt, this Passover let us celebrate the ones who left—by following their example.”