For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



Paschal Greetings

By Israel Adam Shamir

Was it good or bad in Egypt for the people of Israel? The Bible leaves the reader confused. On one hand, they were enslaved and had to built the cities in fear of the brutal overseer’s whip. Exodus 5:7-19 tells that the Pharaoh ceased to provide them with straw to make bricks of (even to this day they mix straw and clay to make bricks in the Nile Valley) and they ran around gathering stubble and straw for the quota of bricks remained as it was. Whenever they would say: “We would rather go and pray”, the Pharaoh would answer: you say so because you are idle, you have too much time on your hands; hurry, do your job, deliver more bricks! And they were beaten to work harder and faster.

A legend (“midrash”) tells of a pregnant woman who was mixing straw and clay for bricks, worked hard, and when she gave birth, her child fell into the pit and was made into a brick. This brick was taken up to heaven and laid at the feet of God.

On the other hand, in the desert, the Israelites complained that they had left the flesh-pots of Egypt, the land of plenty, where they had everything they ever could wish - for the hardships of desert life.

So what it was – a cruel bondage or prosperity? This contradiction can’t be settled convincingly, unless one understands that the story of Exodus is an extended metaphor. The bondage is the bondage of flesh, of our everyday life, of pursuit of things. The Pharaoh, call him Satan, or Consumer spirit, demands from us to make more and more bricks, to earn more money, so we will forget about God. Every day we sacrifice some time of our children (“turn them into bricks”) for instead of attending to them we work more to pay mortgage, this is the quota of bricks, to repay for the car credit, and what not. And from time to time we go to a nice candle-lit restaurant on the seaside for a good meal – this is the fleshpots. 

God takes you out of bondage of flesh (“Egypt”) to the freedom of spirit (the “Promised Land”). He Himself comes to take you out, and He will overcome even death to save you for spiritual life. Life is more than small talk about mortgages and new cars and candle-lit dinners, Man is more, much more than a consumer of goods, He is Godlike and can enter the Promised Land of spirit in flesh. This is the Paschal message, and that is why this is the most important message mankind ever received.

An ordinary Jew takes this metaphor literally; he thinks this is a story of his physical ancestors who were enslaved in the land of pyramids and escaped into the Promised Land. An ordinary Jew thinks that God actually killed the first-born of Egypt and empowered Joshua to kill the natives of Canaan in order to provide his family with a valuable seaside real estate. He thinks that the Promised Land of the Bible is a physical real land, Palestine, that this is a story of liberation from national slavery and conquest of a country. By such interpretation, he debases this great message of its spiritual and universal meaning; he privatises the story and robs others and himself of its true meaning. The recurring motive of Jews using blood of children for the Passover ritual is a symbolic reply to this literalism. The Christian replies: if you are that literal, if you read the metaphoric story of Man’s liberation as some trivial Drang Nach Osten, you may as well pour real blood of children into your crystal goblets.

Much blood - of children and of adults – was poured on the altar of Zionist conquest. But this conquest of Palestine was inbuilt in the literalist Judaic reading of Exodus for Zionism is a literalist realization of the metaphor, the project of conquering the Promised Land by force of arms instead of connecting to spirit by means of prayer, good deeds and grace. It was a titanic, gigantic project; I mean the titans and giants who tried to conquer Olympus and unseat the blessed gods. And whenever people applied this literalist reading, no good came out of it, vide the conquest of North America, where very few natives survived (as opposed to South America) and the resulting nation causes much trouble to the rest of the world.

Ignorant vulgar materialists are prone to “defend Jews” while accusing “Zionists”, for they are not aware of theological grounds of Zionism, and these grounds are deeply entrenched in Judaic literalism. For sure, there were Jewish divines who proclaimed metaphoric reading, for instance, they explained “there was no water for three days” (Exodus 15:22-25) passage as reference to three days without God’s Word. Thanks to these wise men who were aware of the secret spiritual meaning of the Holy Land, that is the Land of Spirit;  Zionism did not break forth until late 19th century. But literalism was never far away, never sufficiently exorcised, and with rise of materialism and decline of understanding, the spiritual reading of the Scripture was altogether discarded.

Likewise, the sad story of Exile can and should be understood as departure of man from the Grace of God. The First Man was in eternal communion with God, in eternal state of grace. Since the exile of Adam from Paradise, we sorely miss this grace. The Christians have Christ who offered us the way to regain the grace; Gnostics created a pretty myth of Sophia entering the sacred marriage with Christ, but in Jewish literalist reading even the concept of grace was forgotten and transplanted by quite trivial physical relocation into Palestine.

 Blessed are the Buddhists who did not entertain the thought that the Pure Land is a part of Nepal where Gautama Buddha was born and found his enlightenment. Indeed, literalism debases its followers, as Karl Marx noted in his witty remark: “Christianity is sublime Judaism, while Judaism is sordid Christianity”. The schism between old Israel of flesh and new Israel of spirit is the split between metaphoric and literal readers of the Exodus. Anti-judaic polemics carried out by St John Chrysostom and Martin Luther were arguments – not against a small tribe, but against the deniers of spirit. Extremely potent anti-spiritual attack of modernity which almost obliterated Christ’s footsteps is deemed “Judaic”, and is supported by spirit-denying Jews, though it has wider and not exclusively Jewish following.

Fathers of the Church were aware of extremely troublesome consequences of literalism. Origen was an enemy of "literalists who believe such things about [God] as would not be believed of the most savage and unjust of men".[Origen, Principles 4.1.8] He could tolerate simple believers, but not the Judaisers. By means of a more sophisticated literalism this group attempted to continue obedience to the Law within the Christian Church, writes Bradshaw, but the real problem with the Judaisers was their opposition to spirit. They were with Letter, i.e. they were literalists and spirit deniers.

The Eastern Orthodox Church preserved the uncorrupted traditions of the Church Fathers, and that is why she stresses the metaphoric reading of the Bible narrative. Orthodox icons do not depict suffering of Christ, as opposed to the Western paining: though the Church surely does not deny it as the Gnostics were prone to, she prefers the image of Christ Resurrected, the Pantocrator, the Supreme King victorious over Death. On the icons, Christ is equally serene on the Cross and on his Throne in heaven.

For us, this week is the time to obtain the most important and most precious gift of God, the Grace. See though myths for their only purpose is to concentrate your mind on spirit, like rosary helps to concentrate on prayer. Do not become inordinately concerned with the details of the myth, or with material of the rosary. Remember, if we get grace, we can solve all small problems of this world. Out of Egypt of flesh to the Promised Land of spirit, this is the call.