No beginning, no end. That’s what comes to me on this wintry morning, contemplating the beginning of the second book of the Torah. Something is beginning, but it isnt the journey into Egypt. Joseph and his father and brother have settled, thrived, and died with dignity, all in Egypt for a hundred years.
What begins now is exile. Separateness. Not because of a physical location, not because of intermarrying, or sharing each other’s customs, but from forgetting. A new shadow side of humanity, born in forgetting, rooted in separation and preference, arose and was afraid.
Fear. A new Pharoah arose who saw an “other” and did not know the “other, ” and so he feared the “other.”
This new Pharoah was at a crossroads. His eyes opened to a foreign people, refugees, living in his midst. People who in fact were not new to the land. He just hadn’t seen them. Now he saw and his heart closed.
This is a Pharoah, we soon learn, whose heart is closed. By God. By design.
And the strategies that arise from a closed heart are oppression and containment. Making life bitter.
This exile does not end when a place is conquered. This exile does not end when one people subjugate and render bitter the lives of another. Exile ends when the heart opens.