Until these past weeks, the only precedent for liberation in Egypt was leaving it. The exodus paradigm of liberation by leaving applies to many parts of life. There are abusive homes where one can only be saved by escape. Throughout history, persecuting nations have made it impossible to seek freedom within their borders; hope lay in running away.
There is always the question of what happens after freedom. When in Genesis Hagar flees from the house of Abraham, an angel asks where she has come from and where she is going. Hagar replies, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” Hagar does not answer the question “where are you going” because she does not know. At the moment, she needs to flee.
We cannot know where Egypt is going. But it is possible that for the first time in its history there will be freedom in the land of the Pharaohs not by fleeing, but by reinventing the political culture. If that happens, forgive me for thinking that a tiny neighboring democracy has provided an insistent and powerful model. We may have fled a long time ago, but as with most of the stories in the Torah, this tale is not over yet.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.