With Passover we celebrate the redemption of the Jews from Egypt. What is the significance of this redemption? Was it merely slavery that we were redeemed from? In fact 4000 years before Hitler, Pharaoh had built his own system of genocide for the Jews. Like Hitler he began by accusing the Jews of disloyalty to his own countrymen, he followed this up by building the first work camps for the Jews and then implementing the first plan of genocide to wipe out the Jewish people.
Millennia before Hitler, Pharaoh had a systematized plan of genocide in place. The Jews would report to work building his pyramids for him under Jewish foremen and work themselves to death and the Jewish newborn boys would be killed by Jewish midwives. Like the Kapos and the Yevesketsia, Jews would do the dirty work and Pharaoh would reap the benefits.
And what did Pharaoh have the Jews build for him? Pyramids, tombs of the dead for a kingdom of death in which the Pharaohs would be buried, eternal rulers of the dead over a kingdom of the dead. Appropriate enough for Egypt which had dedicated so much of itself to a study of death, to mummification of the dead and to its pyramids of the dead, all attempts to preserve corpses and enthrone death above life.
And what began the redemption of the Jews from Egypt? We see it at the end of the first chapter of Exodus after Pharaoh has enslaved the Jews, he decided to wipe out the next generation by commanding the Jewish midwives to kill the Jewish newborns. The kingdom of death issued its command but the midwives did not obey. Instead of fearing Pharaoh, ruler of the Kingdom of Death, it says, "Vatirena Hameyaldot et HaElohim" "The Midwives Feared God" and so they did not do as Pharaoh asked, "Vetaheyana et Hayeladim" "They Kept the Children Alive."
What is the great significance of this? Children are the essence of the future. They are life itself at the core of its potential. They are the next generation, born either to life or death, the only hope of perpetuating the future. When Pharaoh strove to kill the Jewish children, he was aiming to wipe out the life not only of the next generation of the Jewish people, but all the generations. Like Hitler, he had built up a kingdom of death embodied in pyramids in Egypt, as it was embodied in the crematoria under Germany. And in defiance of him, "Vetahayena et Hayeladim", the midwives instead chose to fear God and they chose to let the children live. The culture of life prevailed in that instant over the kingdom of death.
And how did God respond? The rest of the chapter tells us, "Vayaas Lahem Batim" "He Built Houses for Them". What does that mean exactly? The commentaries tell us that these were the houses of royalty and priesthood for Miriam was to be an ancestress of the House of David and Aaron the patriarch of the priesthood. In what merit were they so honored? Because they had chosen life. They had perpetuated the next generation of Jewish children and so their children would become the leaders of future generations in perpetuity. Theirs would be the Temple and to Egypt would remain the echoing tombs of the dead.
But the kingdom of death does not take this lying down. The kingdom of death never does, so Pharaoh orders his people to go and kill the Jewish children themselves. And like so many peoples throughout the ages, they go out and do this. The kingdom of death always knows to go after the children. When the Palestinian Arab sniper saw ten month old Shalhevet Pass in his scope, he knew he had his target. When the Arab terrorist burst into a school into Jerusalem to gun down students, he too knew exactly what he was doing. When Arabs teach their children to hate and kill, they too show themselves to be the spiritual descendants of Pharaoh, the rightful inheritors of his kingdom of death.
And what do the Jews do to defy this? What does God do? It's simple. At the beginning of the second chapter it says, "And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took as his wife a daughter of Levi And the woman conceived, and bore a son." To achieve victory over the kingdom of death, you perpetuate life. You create life. You defy death.
We can see the drop in the birth rates or the high infant mortality rates of cultures that have decided to give up, to build themselves virtual tombs of consumer electronics and to mummify themselves in the shrouds of their own hedonism and self-centeredness. The culture of death begins in self-centeredness, the obsession with one's own mortality and degenerates a contempt from life and from there into violence and murder. For good to triumph over evil, the culture of life must triumph over the kingdom of death.