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Passover and Exodus hold fresh lessons about tyranny for the woke age

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Jews around the world are celebrating Passover, which commemorates the redemption of ancient Israel from slavery in Egypt. Although that event occurred nearly 3,500 years ago, its essential lessons — about how we descend into bondage, and how we can ascend to liberation — remain as vital as ever.

Current events provide alarming parallels to the slide into tyranny found in the biblical account. Promotion of illogical ideas, punishment of nonconformity and the gradual denial of civil liberties are all as present today as in ancient texts.

In the Book of Genesis, Joseph, son of Jacob, rescued and enriched Egypt during years of famine, winning pharaoh’s favor. The Bible’s second book, Exodus, begins with the rise of a new pharaoh hostile to the Jews and to liberty.

Jewish lore records that a cadre of Egyptian elites petitioned their leader, demonizing the Israelites for having different beliefs. Egyptians, for example, worshiped animals, while the Israelites ate them, literally devouring the Egyptians’ gods. The Egyptian elites insisted that subjugating the Jews was necessary for their nation’s protection.

The pharaoh of Exodus bent to this irrational pressure, pretending to forget all about Joseph and how an Israelite had saved his country. But rather than openly enslaving his Jewish citizens immediately, pharaoh wanted them to remain oblivious of the threat to their liberties until it was too late.

To accomplish this, he announced construction of two new cities. Initially, everyone participated, including the Israelites, who were eager to make a patriotic contribution to their nation. As time passed, however, the Egyptians stopped coming. The enforcers required the Israelites to keep working, even when they were denied pay. And this is how an amicable society gave way to tyranny.

A political leader being pressured to adopt what he likely knows is an insane position — that should sound familiar.

Today’s insane assertions — that law enforcement is inherently evil, that unborn children aren’t actually alive, that biology doesn’t determine gender — are no more logical than the claims of Egypt’s elites. The lies of anti-Semites, of course, also persist and find fresh favor with today’s pharaohs, so long as they are masked in the guise of opposition to Israel.

The resurgence of the belief that people must be silenced and denied a livelihood simply for maintaining different views should frighten us all.

Big Tech first decided to control the news, censoring The New York Post for doing what it has done for more than 200 years: truth-seeking. On the tails of that “success,” the tech giants then censored the then-president of the United States. Yet repeated calls for nuclear genocide against Israel from Iranian leaders don’t earn them permanent bans.

Woke elites have pursued other targets: Parler, The Epoch Times and even the scholar and think-tank president Ryan Anderson, author of the 2018 book about transgenderism, “When Harry Became Sally.” What all share in common are viewpoints that dare challenge the elite orthodoxy.

True, the left hasn’t banned the Bible outright — yet. But the prospect seems not that far off: The “Equality Act” declares biblical beliefs to be nothing more than discriminatory stereotypes. Why stop with Anderson?

To pursue irrational policies that demonize biblical values, the Passover story tells us, takes a society on the road to ruin. In one generation after the next, this has proved true. It is adherence to the biblically sound values of the Founding Fathers, including freedom of speech, peaceful dialogue, religious liberty and equal justice, that enabled America to flourish in the first place.

“The stories of the fathers are signposts to the children,” we are taught. This year’s Passover seder is as relevant as any of those conducted for millennia.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest rabbinic public-policy organization in America.

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