SALT - Thursday, 4 Shevat 5780 - January 30, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            After hearing Moshe’s warning of the locusts that would descend upon Egypt, Pharaoh told Moshe that he was willing to release Benei Yisrael, until Moshe informed Pharaoh that the entire nation – men, women and children – would need to leave, explaining, “ki chag Hashem lanu” – “we have a festival to the Lord” in the wilderness (10:9).  Pharaoh then ridiculed Moshe, saying, “So may the Lord be with you when I send you with your children” – mocking what he deemed a preposterous demand that the children must leave with the adults in order to participate in the religious occasion which Benei Yisrael wished to observe.
            Maharil Diskin explains Pharaoh’s cynical response as reflecting his belief that children have no place in an ambitious religious experience.  Moshe told Pharaoh that Benei Yisrael needed to leave Egypt for the purpose of “chag Hashem” – celebrating together with the Almighty.  This lofty goal, Pharaoh responded, is suitable only for God-fearing adults, not for simple people, and certainly not for children.  Maharil Diskin suggests that this is the meaning of the words, “Yehi khein Hashem imakhem” (literally, “So may the Lord be with you”).  Moshe was asking Pharaoh to grant Benei Yisrael the opportunity to experience God’s presence, to celebrate a special moment of closeness with the Almighty, and Pharaoh therefore flatly rejected the demand to include the children – who, in Pharaoh’s mind, had no reason to participate in such an event.  A lofty experience of this nature, Pharaoh insisted, is not something for the entire nation to take part in, and is reserved exclusively for the elite.
            According to Maharil Diskin, then, Moshe’s demand that the entire nation be allowed to leave and observe a “festival to the Lord” reflects our firm belief that experiencing God’s presence is something to which every member of the nation must aspire.  Each individual is allowed the opportunity, and is expected, to experience a relationship with God on his or her own level, in accordance with his or her own capabilities.  Of course, not every person is going to experience a relationship with God the same way.  But the goal of “yehi…Hashem imakhem,” of working to earn and feel God’s presence, is one which must be pursued, in Moshe’s words, “with our youth and with our old; with our sons and with our daughters.”  We are each called upon to “leave Egypt,” to reach beyond our current condition, and strive just a little higher, to make God’s presence felt just a little stronger in our lives.  No matter how small we might feel we are, we must firmly believe that God invites even us out of our personal “Egypt” to build a strong, genuine, impactful relationship with Him, each one of us on our individual level.