Reason for Slavery

August 18, 2011 | by

In the Bible, God tells Abraham that his descendents will eventually become slaves, which was fulfill during the awful years in Egypt. Why would God make such a prediction?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

In Genesis 15:7-8, God promises Abraham that he and his descendants will possess the Land of Israel. To which Abraham responds, "How will I know that's true?"

This remark seems out of line. Imagine a father promising his child, "I'll take you to the ball game on Sunday," and the child looks up and says, "Can I really trust you'll do it?" Amazingly, the child is questioning his own father's credibility to stand by a promise.

Similarly with Abraham. Although he was on an extremely high spiritual level (after all, he was talking with God), his comment of "How will I know?" showed that he went too far in testing God's promises. A person of Abraham's stature should not have felt the need to seek any reassurance from God.

For that reason, God had to ordain an experience which would ingrain in Abraham's descendants a greater trust in God. Before the birth of the Jewish nation, it was necessary for this total trust to be set into the spiritual genetics.

So God tells Abraham: "Know that your descendants will be strangers in a land... where they will be enslaved and oppressed" (Genesis 15:14). The remedy is to be enslaved in Egypt. There the Jews will eventually reach a point of realization that it is only God who can save them. They will turn to God with a total heart, cry out, and only then the process of redemption will occur.

And that is precisely what occurred: "The Jews cried out because of their slavery... God heard their cries and remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Exodus 2:23-24) This was the necessity of Egyptian slavery.

On a personal level, this is a process that each of us has to go through. We have crucial life lessons to learn, and it is precisely for that reason our souls have come to earth in the first place.

Which is not to suggest that we should go out of our way to seek difficulties. But if there is a process that we must undergo, then it is foolish to avoid it. Too often we busy ourselves with petty distractions, in order to escape the confrontation with reality. But it always catches up with us eventually. Because that "difficulty" is part and parcel of our reason for being.

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