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Life in the River

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And Pharaoh commanded his entire nation: Every son that is born you shall throw into the river, and every daughter you shall make live

Exodus 1:22

Pharaoh did not say to let the Jewish girls live; he commanded to make them live (techayun, in the Hebrew).

Pharaoh’s decree of annihilation against the Jewish people consisted of two parts: to throw every Jewish newborn male into the Nile, and to “make live” every female. The boys were to be physically murdered. The girls were to be murdered spiritually by making them live the Egyptian life, by indoctrinating them into the perverse lifestyle of Egypt.

The boys were to be drowned in the Nile. The girls, too, were to be drowned in the Nile—conceptually, if not actually. The Nile, which irrigated the fields of rain-parched Egypt, was the mainstay of its economy and its most venerated god. The girls were to be raised in this cult of the river, their souls drowned in a life that deifies the earthly vehicle of material sustenance.

Today, thirty-four centuries after Pharaoh’s decree, the practice of drowning children in the Nile is still with us: there are still parents whose highest consideration in choosing a school for their children is how it will further their child’s economic prospects when the time will come for him to enter the job market. The people of Israel survived the Egyptian galut (exile) because there were Jewish mothers who refused to comply with Pharaoh’s decree to submerge their children in his river. If we are to survive the present galut, we, too, must resist the dictates of the current “Pharaohs.” We must set the spiritual and moral development of our children—rather than their future “earning power” and “careers”—as the aim of their education.

Based on the Rebbe’s talks, Passover 5712 (1952) and 5714 (1954)[19].

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[19]. Likkutei Sichot, vol. I, pp. 111-113.

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