A Pesach Shiur

I gave a bunch of shiurim over Pesach in the hotel. Most were the standard fare, though I definitely made use of a bunch of the ideas that I’ve blogged over time. There was only one that I developed anew, and it went over very well.

Basically, I took four different 20th Century African-American leaders and discussed the approach of each to the problem of dealing with a heritage of slavery. Using these four basic approaches as paradigms, I attempted to isolate the approach that the Torah and Chazal take with regard to the same issue.

The four figures were:

I compared different methods and aims that they were working toward – the ‘back to Africa’ movement, the legal battle for civil rights, the social battle for equality, and black nationalism – and described each in a nutshell. Then I tried to see if each had its parallel in the Torah. I concluded that the key element, at least initially, was to create a national identity, a la Malcolm X (whose very name echoes Chaza”l sentiment that if your master gives you a name, he robs you of your identity). I compared the Midrash about the Tribe of Ephraim leaving Egypt early to Garvey’s abortive back-to-Africa movement. Identity must precede secession. The social and legal elements don’t really appear in the Egypt narrative, but are definitely enshrined in the Torah’s law. The sensitivity, on both the social and legal planes, to the plight of the slave or otherwise disadvantaged, is a common refrain in the Torah, and constantly invokes the memory of our own servitude.

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