For those new to Jewish exegesis on our Bible, we call it Midrash. Rabbis way back around 200CE spanning several hundred years published their statements that spun off of wordplay on various verses. Whether these Midrashim came from existing historical traditions that the Rabbis were looking for scriptural sources to tag into memory, or whether these Midrashim are actually spin-offs drawn from a textual oddity meant to teach a lesson is a subject of open debate amongst Jews even today. We even call each other heretics over it. The conclusion doesn’t really matter all that much.
The Midrash I will quote for you now is spun off of Exodus 13:18. You’ve got to know Hebrew to understand it, but here goes: “The Children of Israel went hamushim out of Egypt.” Hamushim is generally understood as meaning “armed” as in weapons. But the root is hamesh, which means five. So the Rabbis took that word and interpreted it to mean that only one fifth of the Israelites actually left Egypt. What does five have to do with weaponry? Well, there’s five fingers on your arm (arm, armed, same connection in English). When they’re all grasping something, it’s probably a weapon, or at least something that can be used as one.
So what happened to the other 4/5ths? Simple. They died during the plague of darkness. They were too mentally enslaved to leave, and they wouldn’t have followed Moses out, so they had to be removed from the scene discreetly.
What is the point of this Midrash? Well, I’m not one to take these things literally. I read them as a layer over the text as opposed to a layer to replace it. I understand it in an encouraging way – that is, the Rabbis are telling us, don’t expect everyone to march out of slavery when given the chance. But when a nation reaches a 20% threshold, there’s enough freedom to warrant an exodus.
When reading the Torah as a younger guy, I was often flabbergasted by the Jews’ behavior under Moses in the desert. They were a bunch of whiny brats (and these were the 20% that got out mind you!) crying for Egyptian welfare (see Numbers 11:5) and always wanting to run back. How could they want such a thing?
And then I see Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum voters who I’m sure know perfectly well that their candidate is not going to come the least bit close to cutting a single dollar from the federal budget. Forget it. They know very well that there will be no change under any of them. And that’s why they’re voting for them. Because they know Ron Paul is the only one who will set them free by slashing and burning the federal government, and this they are terrified of.
I look at them and I wonder why the hell are they playing this stupid game when they know the country is on the verge of collapse. Because the only answer to saving their country is to be independent, and this they do not want. Neither did the Jews back then, neither do the Jews in America now, nor do the non Jews, human nature all. Nothing has changed.
But this is a good thing. Because just as it did then, the 20% threshold is about to be crossed. At that point, I would hope the message of the Midrash is a true one – that at 20%, God will take the rest of the R3volution into His hands and push it forward to completion.
I don’t know how this is going to happen, but it’s more and more clear to me that it’s going to. There’s too much of a perfect global storm going on here.
Another cute parellelism that just came to mind about 20%: Genesis 41:34 – Joseph advises Pharaoh to divide the land of Egypt into fifths in preparation for a 7 year famine after 7 years of explosive growth. (Sounds like a Keynesian boom/bust cycle to me!) Five districts? Arm the nation? (Five = Arm with weapons, see above) Possibly appoint armed guards over the country? Who knows exactly what Joseph is saying here, but one thing is certain.
Once Joseph was put in charge by Pharaoh to save the country with centralized power, (with the word “fifth”) Joseph takes that power and enslaves the whole country by ridiculously overcharging for food, and the whole country becomes slaves to Pharaoh. (Gen. 47:19) It starts with a fifth and a central bureaucracy.
A few hundred years later, a fifth wakes up and gets out of there. Armed.
And did I just see a poll that Ron Paul is at 20% in South Carolina?
5 thoughts on “Rabbinic Lessons on the 20% Freedom Threshold”
Ron Paul will set america free if elected but what about feiglin? I hear nothing about getting rid of the income tax, car tax, VAT, sound money. Ron talks about all of these things. Israelis have been slaves since 1948 just like americans who have been slaves since 1933.
Am I wrong?
You’re right. Income tax and sound money are important, but nobody understands them here. This is a socialist police state. Once america moves to sound money, the rest of the world will follow.
I think you are forgeting something. Israel is different and not just because of history.
The Jewish people are Avdei Hashem, and Israel is Hashem’s land.
You’re right. I forgot. The Jewish People are Avdei Hashem, and Israel is Hashem’s land.
Great post. Notice that when Joseph taxes them a fifth of their produce, they say they’ll happily be slaves of Pharaoh. conclusion: 20% tax (or more) = state slavery.