A QUESTION OF CIRCLES
Published March, 2017
One of the Ten Plagues about which we read on Passover was that of darkness. The darkness is described in the following way, “and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. No man saw his brother, neither rose anyone from his place for three days” (Exodus 10:22-23). This darkness, it seems, consisted of the fact that one could not see his brother. The plagues, according to the Talmud, were a punishment meted out to the Egyptians as measure for measure. Their sin was that one could not see his brother.
Figuratively speaking, they were blinded by their selfishness and their self-importance to such a degree that they could see only themselves. That is why they enslaved other people. Other people did not count with them. They were a lower species of human beings that deserved no better fate than slavery. The words “no man saw his brother” mean that they could not see a brother in their fellow human beings. When you cannot see a brother in another human being, it is only a small step to considering him on a lower level.
It is all a question of circles. All people draw circles around themselves and they divide the world according to those who are in the circle and those who are outside the circle. The stature of each human being is determined by the size of his circle. Some of us have a circle just large enough to let in our own person. No one else counts. Other people include their family in the circle. Still others include their community or their country. The ideal person includes the whole world in it. To him all people are brothers and sisters literally, and therefore are entitled to the same consideration. When we say in the Declaration of Independence that all are equal, we mean it in this sense. There are no inferior or superior creatures. There are no people more entitled to freedom and a high standard of living than others.
Miryom, Sarah, Lewis and Sarah, Danny and Debby, Judah, Bennett, and Nava join me in wishing you all a chag kosher v’sameach, a Happy and Kosher Passover.Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD