Torah Portion – Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)
“There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education. You have to teach children the importance of justice, righteousness, kindness and compassion. You have to teach them that freedom can only be sustained by the laws and habits of self-restraint.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
Freedom may be fought for and won, but it can never be kept without the foresight to educate the children of freedom about justice and compassion. And also about history and truth, and to supply them with critical thinking skills.
Without such a deep and broad education they will grow to falsely claim that communism or socialism offers them freedom; that fascism is good because those in power only have the best wishes of the masses at heart.
The kingdoms, empires and countries of the past all declare that freedom does not last, when a full and proper education is denied to the people.
Sadly, this is the reality here in Australia today and in many other countries including the USA. The education system has rejected the teaching of true justice, of righteousness and self-restraint, but just as significantly it has neglected developing in students the vital skills of discernment and critical thinking.
Moshe (Moses), inspired by Yehovah clearly recognized this when he addressed the people of Israel as they were about to leave Egypt:
And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this rite?” you shall say, “It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.” (Ex. 12:26-27)
And you shall explain to your child on that day, “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.” (Ex. 13:8)
And when, in time to come, your child asks you, saying, “What does this mean?” you shall say to him, “It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage.” (Ex. 13:14)
Here Moshe speaks into the future; he tells the people of Israel what they are to do in the future, that they are to educate their children about the past, about the escape from Egypt, from slavery at the hand of the Almighty.
Also note that when children ask about their parent’s actions in observing Pesach (Passover), Moshe tells them they are to explain that the activities of this Festival are to recognize and remember the power and blessings of Yehovah; that freedom from bondage is thanks to the hand of God and that the memory of this would keep them on the narrow path of righteousness in heeding the instructions of God (i.e. the Torah),
Rabbi Sacks states that:
“Moses’ insight was profound. He knew that you cannot change the world by externalities alone, by monumental architecture, or armies and empires, or the use of force and power. How many empires have come and gone while the human condition remains untransformed and unredeemed?
There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education. You have to teach children the importance of justice, righteousness, kindness and compassion. You have to teach them that freedom can only be sustained by the laws and habits of self-restraint. You have continually to remind them of the lessons of history, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” because those who forget the bitterness of slavery eventually lose the commitment and courage to fight for freedom. And you have to empower children to ask, challenge and argue. You have to respect them if they are to respect the values you wish them to embrace.
This is a lesson most cultures still have not learned after more than three thousand years. Revolutions, protests and civil wars still take place, encouraging people to think that removing a tyrant or having a democratic election will end corruption, create freedom, and lead to justice and the rule of law – and still people are surprised and disappointed when it does not happen. All that happens is a change of faces in the corridors of power.
In one of the great speeches of the 20th century, a distinguished American justice, Judge Learned Hand, said:
‘I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.’
What God taught Moses was that the real challenge does not lie in gaining freedom; it lies in sustaining it, keeping the spirit of liberty alive in the hearts of successive generations. That can only be done through a sustained process of education. Nor is this something that can be delegated away to teachers and schools. Some of it has to take place within the family, at home, and with the sacred obligation that comes from religious duty. No one ever saw this more clearly than Moses …”. – https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/237883671.html
When children are well educated in the value of freedom and the power of the Almighty, as adults they are a lot more likely to recognize His hand at work in the most challenging of times and also then to search their hearts and repent of any and all sins rather than curse Him and reject Him.
The Book of Revelation describes the end-times of great calamity when many will curse Yehovah rather than repenting and turning to Him:
7 Then I heard the altar say, “Yes, Yehovah, God of heaven’s armies, your judgments are true and just!”
8 The fourth one poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was permitted to burn people with fire. 9 People were burned by the intense heat; yet they cursed the name of God, who had the authority over these plagues, instead of turning from their sins to give him glory.
10 The fifth one poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom grew dark. People gnawed on their tongues from the pain,
11 yet they cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and did not turn from their sinful deeds.”
– Rev 16: 7-11
It is a proper and deep education that can save people from this devastating state of affairs. So not only is it as Rabbi Sacks states that “There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education…”,but it is also through such a deep, broad and biblical education that people can be saved from themselves and turn to the only One who can truly save, Yehovah, King of the Universe!