Rav Avigdor Miller on Honorable Servitude 

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Q: 
I’m asking about what the Rav mentioned earlier, that if the Bnei Yisroel had listened to the advice of Yosef and remained separate from the Mitzri’yim, living only in Goshen, then all of the problems, the difficulties of avodah kasha, would not have happened. But didn’t Hashem already tell Avraham Avinu that his descendants would suffer through ועבדום ועינו אותם (Bereishis 15:13)? How do we reconcile that?

A:
My friend, you have not been reading Behold A People! (laughter) Alright, there are worse things than that.

Being in the land of Goshen was called עבודה קשה; it was still ועבדום. Why? Because even Yosef,  who certainly was not a menial slave, even he was unable to leave Mitzrayim, even for his father’s funeral, unless he would leave over everything he possessed in the land of Mitzrayim. And in addition to that he had to explain to Pharaoh that his father made him swear. If not for that, he wouldn’t have gone out. So we see that even Yosef was enslaved.

To be forced to remain in a foreign country against your will, that’s incarceration. And that’s slavery! Avodah means slavery. Who said that slavery has to be with bricks? Bricks is only a result of mingling with gentiles. When you start mingling with them, then you get bricks.

When they remained separate from the Mitzri’yim, it wasn’t a servitude of mortar and bricks. It was a servitude of a different kind. And only then, when they began to learn the ways of the Egyptians, then it says (Tehillim 105:25) הפך לבם לשנוא עמו – “Hashem turned their hearts to hate His people, להתנכל בעבדיו – to scheme, to plot, against His servants.” Had they not mixed, there would have been an honorable servitude – a servitude, but with no bricks.
TAPE # 26 (April 1973)