Social worker Tal Lesser suggests that we look at the Exodus from Egypt and at ourselves in an unconventional way, writing as follows:
“In the years of my youth, Aviv Gefen, the Israeli musician, used to shout during his concerts: ‘Do you want change?’ The answer for most of us, at the end of the day, is simply ‘No.’ We are not interested in change. We are more comfortable with what we are well-acquainted and familiar with.
“Egypt was a symbol of stability and permanence, of strict limitations and naturally recurring phenomena. The Nile always flowed with or without rain, slavery was an element of natural law, the dynasty of the Pharaohs existed from time immemorial and would never end; indeed, even after death, the Pharaohs were mummified and preserved forever.
“The Exodus from Egypt provided sudden hope to humanity. The world saw that it was possible to break through and overcome the apparently blind and permanent laws of nature and the reign of Pharaoh under which the strong had prospered at the expense of the weak. It was possible to change reality by allowing the light of Hashem to penetrate into it so that a shining new ethical reality could be revealed. It was possible to do teshuvah.
“It’s not by chance that the Exodus from Egypt comes as the result of plagues that undermined the idea of existential stability or unimpeachable permanence. (After all, there were other ways the Exodus could have happened, without changing nature itself). The unfailingly predictable Nile turns into blood, the reliably unchanging earth is suddenly filled with lice, and the sun that always shines suddenly disappears.
“These are cataclysmic emergencies whose purpose is to upset our stability, our sense of permanence, the belief that ‘this is how it has always been and this is how it will always be.’
“We are accustomed to calling those faithful to tradition “conservative” or “traditional,” yet the foundation of our identity is our struggle with nature and day-to-day routine of old habits, our perpetual striving for change.”
(Translation by Yehoshua Siskin)