On Being a Minority: Privilege and Obligation
ציור: יואל וקסברגר, מלכות וקסברגר

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

It seems that we do not speak enough about an amazing fact: as Rashi reminds us at the beginning of our Torah portion, only 20% of the children of Israel left Egypt. 80% of the people did not connect with the great idea or message of the Exodus. They did not believe in it and they stayed behind. Just one-fifth of the people ultimately took the road to Mount Sinai and the Land of Israel. In the days before the liberation, if you had been in Egypt you would have mostly heard the voices of the 80% who made up the overwhelming majority of the people. Yet today it is clear to us that it was the 20% who got it right.

In a democracy, it is important, of course, to honor the will of the majority, but life is not only elections. In everything associated with culture, spiritual longings, and values – is the majority always right? Is everything that appeals to the masses the truth?
Once a year we stop for a moment to consider this bothersome fact: it was not only Pharaoh who did not want us to leave slavery for freedom; 80% of our brothers and sisters were with Pharaoh and did not want to leave either. But the 20% taught us a lesson that has sustained us for more than 3,000 years: Sometimes to be a minority, to go against the majority, is a privilege and an obligation.
We say that in every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he had personally left Egypt. But, had we been there,would we have chosen to leave? Would we have been with the 80%, enslaved to the popular culture, or with the 20%?

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סיון רהב-מאיר

Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. Married to Yedidya, the mother of five. Lives in Jerusalem. She works for Israel TV news, writes a column for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and hosts a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands more listeners throughout the world.
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