The Passover Holiday, celebrated by Jews around the world, has just ended. This Holiday represents a central myth of the Jewish people, that "we were slaves in Egypt and God brought us out" to freedom. Furthermore, we are instructed:
In each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt. As it says: "You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of this that God took me out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8)
It is a powerful myth of a persecuted people being freed by the intercession of their God. In my research into the meaning of Passover, how it might still be relevant today, and what gives it the emotional resonance it still has, I came across a comment I had never seen before. This comes from Rabbi Stephen Baars, writing on Assimilation Then and Now:
The Talmud records that in actuality, only 20 percent of the Jewish people left Egypt. The other 80 percent did not identify strongly enough with the Jewish people's role and goal. They were too assimilated and immersed in Egyptian society. So they stayed behind.
Passover this year, fell on the 62nd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a doomed rebellion carried out by the 60,000 Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto who remained of the original 300,000. For a painful, very human description of the day to day evolution of the uprising, take a look at "The Ghetto Fights," by Marek Edelman, published in a pamphlet called "The Warsaw Ghetto: The 45th Anniversary of the Uprising". (Hat tip to Horsefeathers).
I was struck by the same 20% occurring in the Exodus story and in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.