Jews have suffered unnecessarily because Moses gave them this idea that they were the chosen people of God. He had to; I can understand his helplessness. Jews were in Egypt, slaves, and Moses was trying to get them to revolt against the slavery.
Now people who have remained slaves for centuries cannot even conceive that they can revolt against their masters; the very idea is fearful. Those masters have been beating them, killing them – they have treated them like animals – for so long. The question before Moses was, “How to create some idea in the Jews, that they are capable of revolution?”
He invented a beautiful idea: that they were the chosen people of God; and people who were suffering in slavery, being beaten, killed, accepted the idea immediately. It was such a consolation. But nobody raised the question that if we are the chosen people of God, then why are we slaves? The idea was so contradictory; but it was so consoling that they gathered courage once they had accepted the idea. Moses had managed, first, to get them to accept the idea: “You are the chosen people of God;” then he told them, “Now revolution is very easy for you – nobody can prevent you.”
Their inferiority was covered by being the “chosen people of God;” and now being the “chosen people of God” was used as a foundation for revolution against the Egyptians. It was good strategy at that point. The Jews revolted – they left the land of Egypt.
Then Moses gave them another idea, that “God has made a special land for you, Israel; so we are going towards Israel.” I don’t think he had any idea where they were going, because it took him and his people forty years of wandering in the desert, searching for the land “Israel.” No country was ready to give them shelter. A small country which they started calling “Israel” was not anything special – a desert.
If this is what God creates for his own people then he seems to be a little crazy. But Moses had to say somewhere, “We have found!”…Three-fourths of his original people had died on the way, out of starvation, hunger – and God did not care at all…. His own people in search of the land he had created for them and that land was also very difficult. The people who reached Israel were almost third, fourth generation. Their forefathers had started from Egypt, and the third or fourth generation arrived.
The first generation gap was felt by Moses: these were not the people he had convinced to revolt. He was almost ancient, perhaps one hundred years old; tired, tattered, he simply said, “This is the land” – to somehow settle his people. But the people were surprised, because the land was barren desert. Another age of difficulties began to produce out of that barren land; and Moses was so tired, and he had lost his old youthful inventiveness. He left the Jews in Israel saying, “You take care of the land. A few Jews, one tribe of the Jews, has got lost somewhere in the desert and I am going in search of it.”