The sun was hot.
As taskmasters stood over them, the people attended to the work that had been forced upon them.
They could hear cries of agony around them,
And the calls of the foremen, chastising them for lack of energy
and for their supposedly slow progress.
Was this the life their recent ancestors had expected when they came to Egypt?
Was this the hallmark of this great civilization, building monuments
on the backs of slaves who were accorded no human dignity?
Still, when the day was over, the workers would return to their homes.
While they could not totally forget the toil of the past hours,
They took comfort in being one community.
From almost forgotten memories of preceding generations, they knew
That someone might arise again, like Joseph, to save them,
Or that someone like Jacob, who received his name Israel,
Meaning “one who struggles with God,”
Might help them find strength to face their own challenges
as their bondage grew more intense with each passing day.
One day, they caught a glimpse of a man who was one from among their people
Who, they heard, had grown up in among Egyptian royalty
And was now making his case to Pharaoh to end their servitude.
His protestations made their work even more difficult.
They didn’t know if they should hate him for the proclamation
Which he said came from their God, “Let My people go!”
Or, if they should be thankful that someone was trying to bring them hope
And strength and faith that a time of suffering and pain could end
And that they could once again live in dignity and freedom.
As they attended to their work day after day, some of them began to sense
A spark of optimism welling up inside of them,
A feeling that slavery was not the ultimate destiny of their people.
Some began to be grateful for this new leader and put all of their faith in him
And in the God for whom he said he spoke
But others realized that liberation would only begin
When they themselves, within their souls, began to imagine the freedom they deserved.
That was truly the beginning of their own liberty
When, even in a sea of cruelty,
They still could ascend, within themselves and, perhaps, along with others around them,
To a place that was higher and holy.