After all, they endured brutal conditions in addition to their merciless slavery.
Much of what they endured in the worst phases of Egyptian slavery resembled what Jews endured in the Nazi camps during the Holocaust.
And like the Nazis, the Egyptians sought to break the Jews psychologically.
One way they did so was to force the men to do women's work and women to do men's work. And while you might think that men got off easier than the women (as the men's work was physically crushing for the women), Jewish men doing laundry in the Nile risked coming up against a horde of territorial crocodiles.
In contrast, you saw that Jews desperately wished to escape the Nazi camps. And before that, they yearned to escape the ghettos.
Only they couldn't.
Trapped by concrete walls and barbed wire, the threat of execution, starving or freezing to death in the forests, or being betrayed by the local population – all this made escape terrifyingly risky, if not completely impossible.
So who were these Jews – a large majority – who chose to stay in Mitzrayim, a decision which resulted in their death the the Plague of Darkness?
How Can You Cast Out All That is Detestable?
"...because Yisrael in Egypt was bad and sinful...and I said to them 'What is detestable in a man's eyes – cast away' " (Yechezkel 20:7)
shikutzei einav – detestable in his eyes.
This is one of those verses that is hard to translate while giving the full meaning. Shikutz is something yucky and it also implies idols used for occult worship.
shikutzei einav literally means "the detestable things of his eyes," but it can also mean something that is sitting before your eyes or it can mean an opinion, like how something appears "in your eyes" (i.e. in your mind).
But before you can even think of casting away the detestable things, what must you do FIRST?
You first must see it as detestable.
If you think your idol is really cool, then it's not detestable in your eyes, and you won't chuck it.
The Kli Yakar then goes on to say that this 30-year addition came to them because "rabim hemah amei ha'aretz asher lo ratzu latzeit klal miMitzrayim – many of them were amei ha'aretz (ignorant) who did not want to go out at all from Egypt."
Not at all? Not even a little bit? With all they suffered, how could they not want to leave?
How can that be?
And what does their level of Jewish knowledge have to do with anything?
Why Stay in Mitzrayim?
(And Rav Avigdor Miller also gives an example of this in Parshat Bo: Night of the Locked Doors on page 12.)
When Lea arrived in the Gehinnom of Aushwitz, the death machine was full and she and many other girls were transferred to a waiting area, then she was later absorbed into the camp.
As we all know, the conditions were unimaginable.
The constant smell of human waste and burning bodies permeated the camp. (Lea even said the smell alone and everything it implied was driving her crazy.) The starvation and harsh slavery. The constant threat of being hit with metal sticks, whips, or being shot or having a dog set on a person. The flames against the night sky of entire Jewish communities being cremated. The sound & sights of your fellow Jews being attacked and burned.
Yet when Lea encouraged a former gymnastics teacher from Budapest to join a transport leaving Auschwitz for a German factory with better conditions (appalling conditions, but still better), the former gymnastics teacher demurred.
"Imagine," she said, "what a tattooed arm would look like in an elegant evening dress."
I always feel like a bit of hypocrite when speaking about the Holocaust.
I hope Hashem saves all of us from ever being in such a situation, and none of us can say for sure how we would respond, chas v'shalom.
I think it's also easy to understand how otherwise good people lost their minds or their integrity in such a horrific situation.
And you can also make a good case for the gymnastics teacher that her mind had simply blown away due to the brutal trauma.
Yet it does mean something when she's willing to remain among the smell and sight of burning Jews, of fellow Jews being tortured and killed in horrible ways, toddlers being thrown alive into fire pits – all because she wants to look good in an evening gown.
And this also reveals her background prior to the Holocaust. She didn't miss Shabbos or her family (a longing many other victims expressed); she missed the secular non-Jewish events that called for an evening gown.
And that can only be because she didn't have Shabbos (or much of Shabbos). She was immersed in the evening-gown lifestyle.
That's all she really knew.
(You can read more about it HERE.)
And again, without judging such a person in such a situation, it does fit in with what the Kli Yakar wrote about the four-fifths who did not leave Mitzrayim because they were amei ha'aretz who did not WANT to leave.
It wasn't a matter of whether they COULD leave Mitzrayim.
It all came down to: Did they WANT to leave Mitzrayim?
Even more, the question was whether they wanted to be REDEEMED?
Because remember, they didn't go to Eretz Yisrael right away.
Yes, Eretz Yisrael was their ultimate destination and has always remained our ultimate destination.
However, all the Jewish men who'd been slaves in Mitzrayim died before reaching Eretz Yisrael.
So it's not about going some place physical.
It's all about whether you WANT to be close to Hashem, to be Hashem's Bride, His Sister, His Child.
Do you want to be a servant of Hashem or a servant of Mitzrayim? Because it's either one or the other. There's no such thing as complete liberation.
You're always serving something, whether it's your own yetzer hara or Hashem.
Do you WANT the real wonderful Eternity of the World to Come promised to a committed Yisrael?
Let's go back to the Kli Yakar and complete the above commentary:
...many of them were amei ha'aretz who did not want to go out at all from Egypt.
Because of this, four-fifths died in the 3 days of Heavy Darkness.
How Your Biggest Yetzer Hara Can Reveal Your Biggest Virtue
It's VERY applicable, especially with all the increasing attacks on Jews and against Judaism throughout the world.
And Chazal says what the Kli Yakar says above:
Persecutions come from not being Jewish enough.
They come from absorbing anti-Torah values.
They come because, in the words of the Kli Yakar, the holy Jews wanted "to be residents of Egypt" (and everything that implied) and "not leave from there."
As far as I know, the one-fifth that left Mitzrayim were not tzaddikim.
You don't need to be a tzaddik to be redeemed (although it sure helps).
Remember, all the Jews (except some very special individuals, like Moshe Rabbeinu, Shevet Levi, etc.) were crushed under Egyptian bondage and on the 49th level of tumah (spiritual impurity).
Tumah comes from the root "blockage." "Tum" is something sealed.
They squatted down in one of the lowest levels of spiritual blockage – a state to which many people can unfortunately relate today.
For example, many people find it difficult to daven with kavanah today.
You can go a whole day saying brachot – and not one with kavanah.
People feel torn between what they want and what Hashem wants.
Many people have a love-hate relationship with the Internet or their phones.
Their brain loves the kick it gets from the carefully manipulated social media or surfing, but their yetzer tov hates being constantly pulled in the wrong direction and wish they could be more disciplined.
Many people have a love-hate relationship with food for the same reasons.
Feeling Hashem as a loving Father who is right there with you at all times?
Well, many people feel this state is impossible to achieve.
(Yet not so many generations ago, your average Jew – including illiterate grandmothers – felt this state without even trying. Their challenges lay in other areas.)
People express anger, then feel so defeated because they know they failed the nisayon of not getting angry...again.
Some people feel like they're going through the motions of mitzvot. Despite all the mussar and chizuk they've received, they still find it so hard to serve Hashem b'simcha. They feel drained, like they're keeping Torah with their last ebbs of emotional koach.
They feel bad when you tell them about emunah & serving Hashem b'simcha, and saying gam zeh l'tovah, and so on. They feel bad because they try and they try and they try, and they just can't do it.
(Or they can't do it consistently. Maybe they manage it for a few minutes or hours or days...until everything comes crashing around them again.)
And you should know this is actually a very big maaleh - virtue!
What's Really Good about You at the 49th Level of Tumah
They weren't like Moshe Rabbeinu or Miriam Haneviah.
49th level of tumah. That's pretty bad.
According to various midrashim and mefarshim, they were emotionally and physically exhausted.
Yet they at least WANTED the Geula.
They couldn't escape Mitzrayim.
They couldn't go on anymore, yet they couldn't get a break either.
And they couldn't bring about the Redemption.
They could not even redeem themselves, even one person for himself.
But they could WANT it.
On the other hand, there are people who can't daven with kavanah and DON'T WANT TO.
They hope there's a way for them to skip shul without anyone noticing.
Or if they're women, they find justifications why they can only say morning brachot as fast as they can and nothing else. (BTW, some women really DON'T have time to say Shemoneh Esrei. I'm not talking about them.)
There are people who wish they didn't have to keep Shabbos.
They don't wish that Shabbos was more enjoyable or wish that there was some magic button they could press to make them really enjoy it...they don't want Shabbos AT ALL.
Some people don't feel guilty about viewing unwholesome images or indulging in unwholesome fantasies or entertaining forbidden attractions – they only feel bad that they need to hide it. (And some eventually stop doing even that, dumping everything out and proclaiming how "liberated" they feel as they are embraced by the surrounding completely degenerate & destructive society.)
Some people don't feel guilty about investing so much of their mind & time in social media and the Internet. They don't feel torn. They don't wish they could be better or more spiritual.
Instead, they wish that the rabbanim would just stop forbidding things "all the time."
Also, and this sounds bizarre, but I have personally met a small minority of people who feel no compunctions about expressing anger. I mean frum people (both FFB and BT). They will hit and/or yell at their kids, or yell at their spouse, and they feel no remorse whatsoever!
This occurs despite how often Judaism condemns anger. Heck, both Orchot Tzaddikim and Pele Yoetz dedicate entire chapters to overcoming this middah. The Rambam holds it's like worshiping idols.
Years ago, I even had another frum woman ask me one time why I felt so bad about ever getting angry my kids and why I felt it was so important to never get angry, no matter what.
I didn't even know where to start answering. It's like if a fellow frummie asked you, "Why do you feel it's so important to keep Shabbat with all the halachot?"
It'd be like, "Umm...because it's one of the Ten Commandments? And why are YOU asking me this? You're already supposed to know!"
Yes, it was only a handful of people, but it still showed me how disconnected people can be from the obvious basics. If you're NOT disconnected, but strive and know when you've fallen, then that's a very big maaleh!
Some people honestly do not feel bad about hurting others. They either think they're cute/funny or they think the other person had it coming to them.
Some people think it's hard to be a Jew...and therefore, wish they didn't have to be one. (Not good.)
Some people think it's hard to be a Jew...in Golus. And they desperately wish for Mashiach to come so they can enjoy Judaism in all its glory. (Very good.)
So if you feel like, "Gosh, I'm so crushed and dead inside. I simply cannot go on any longer. But I wish I wasn't like this. I wish things could be better. I wish I could be better. But mostly, I wish Mashiach would just COME already! Because I sure as heck cannot go on like this any longer."
In that case, you WANT to leave Mitzrayim.
And that's really good!