Herzl immortalized in Dimona, Israel (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Herzl immortalized in Dimona, Israel(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 The parting of the sea marks the completion of the Exodus from Egypt. But what is the essence of the Exodus?Granted, it is about ending slavery and the physical migration from Egypt to Canaan, but as we learn from God’s communication with Moses, those are primarily tools to achieve the ultimate essence of the Exodus: instilling godly consciousness – to the Israelites and to the nations

At the onset of the Exodus, God outlines the seven-item redemption program: I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians; I will deliver you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments; I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God; Ye shall know that I am the LORD your God; I will bring you in unto the land, I will give it you for a heritage: I am the LORD.”

From this we can reverse back into understanding the nature of the Israelites’ life in Egypt: They were both physically suffering, and in a mental bondage. But then we learn from God’s plan that there was a deeper problem: They forgot that they were God’s people. Perhaps it was unclear if their forefather’s covenant was still in-effect. Ultimately, we learn from God’s program that during those centuries in Egypt, “atheism” emerged, and hence, God instills knowledge that He is the Lord.

God then turns to the migrational aspect of the program. We can ascertain from it that the Jacob-era intention to return to Canaan has evaporated into a dream. God’s “Goshen Program” brings the Israelites back to their land. Yet mere infiltration into Canaan without sovereignty would be unsustainable. Hence, God creates global recognition that Israelis are the rightful heirs of their ancestral land, giving it to them “for a heritage.”

And so, after centuries in Egypt, the Israelites parted the sea, and Moses promised, “For the way you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity.” But then…

‘Once more there was an Egypt’

The Exodus from Egypt and the exodus from Europe 3,000 years later are so similar that biblical critics in the far future might argue that they were one and the same.

For centuries, the Jews have been mentally enslaved in Europe, developing ghetto traits that are unnatural to them. (About 90% of Jews lived in Europe during most of this time). They were suffering from chronic European opposition that manifested in antisemitism. They, too, began to lose their faith, perhaps unsure if their covenant with God was still intact. The intention to return evaporated into a dream, which itself became sanctified and a tenet of exile Judaism (Judaism 2.0).

And then God sent Theodor Herzl, and deployed the same seven-item redemption program he used in Egypt: He brought the Jews out the burdens of Europe, delivered them from their bondage, took them for a people and instilled godly consciousness. Indeed, the vast majority of Israeli Jews – observant and secular alike – are believers. He then brought them back into the land and gave it to them as heritage, secured in international law and by now, globally recognized.

The language is different because the cultural context is different. Back in Moses’s time it is described overtly as God’s actions through Moses, while in Herzl’s time it is described as Herzl’s actions and is left to the reader (or Herzl interpreters) to decide how Herzl came up with Zionism. Herzl – perhaps the second most humble person in Jewish history – does not say “God sent me.” But he does sprinkle subtle hints, such as recounting Vienna’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Moritz Güdemann urging him at the onset of the European exodus: “Remain as you are. Perhaps you are the one God called.” 

Like the Exodus from Egypt, the one from Europe is not merely about the geographical migration to Palestine, nor just about emancipation from the enslavement of European antisemitism. Those are primarily tools to achieve that same third objective. No wonder Herzl insinuated that the exodus from Europe should be added to the Passover Haggadah: “Once more there was an Egypt’. Just like the Exodus from Egypt, the one from Europe is a powerful tool to instill godly consciousness upon generations upon generations of Jews. 

Indeed, just as the one from Egypt, the exodus from Europe is about the transformation of Judaism. Hence, the contemporary idea of post-Zionism is akin to the idea that Judaism ended with the Exodus from Egypt. Spoiler alert: The Torah and biblical Judaism (Judaism 1.0) continue to develop way past the Exodus, and so does Zionism (Judaism 3.0).

The writer is the author of the upcoming book Judaism 3.0. For details, go to For his geopolitical articles: For his commentaries on the weekly Torah portion:

See Follow-up article: Judaism 3.0 gives us tools to understand our past

This article first appeared in the january 29, 2021 Jerusalem Post magazine and January 29, 2021 Jerusalem Post International edition – CLICK FOR THE PDF OF GOL KALEV’S COLUMN ALONG WITH RABBI DAVID WOLPE’S AND RABBI SHMUEL RABINOWITZ’S:

More articles linking Torah & Zionism: Parasha & Herzl

More geopolitical articles: Europe & Jerusalem

Related Jerusalem Post articles by Gol Kalev:

From ‘Then Sang Moses’ to ‘Then Sang Herzl’ -Herzl’s view of the Exodus from Europe in comparison to the Exodus from Egypt

Passover as Jewish particularity – Herzl created a new anchor for Judaism, having concluded that the primary malaise of 2,000 years of exile was not the persecution, but rather the lack of unified Jewish political leadership

The decades that transformed Judaism – Judaism was shaped through three brief periods of radical changes: the Abrahamic revolution that shaped Judaism 1.0; the 1st century CE destruction of the Temple that shaped Judaism 2.0; and the 20th century Zionist revolution that seeded Judaism 3.0

To Egypt or to Israel? – Both Herzl and Joshua & Caleb understood what establishment Israelite leadership of their respective time did not – the exodus from Egypt/Europe is the return to Judaism even before it is the return to the land of the Jews.

The inauguration of Judaism 1.0 – The Temple was the point-of-orientation for Judaism When the Romans destroyed the Temple, they destroyed Judaism’s anchor. Yet, Judaism did not evaporate. Instead it transformed, adopting a new anchor – Rabbinical Judaism, centered around Halacha (Jewish Law),  the canonization of the Oral Torah and the yearning to return.

Jewish transformation – Judaism 3.0 – For 2,000 years of exiles Judaism was bound by internal glue of religiosity and external one of insularity.  With the radical decline in religious observance and elimination of outer walls, once again, Judaism has lost its anchor.  But at the same time a new one emerged – Zionism, which is now turning into the organizing principle of Judaism.

more by Gol Kalev on, including:

European hijacking the Palestinian cause

Europeanism vs Americanism – a new global philosophical divide?

European opposition to the Jewish state

Europe should benefit from Herzl’s vision

The resurfacing of European Colonialism

The battle for Europe


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