Friday, January 18, 2008

The Far Side...

…seems to be as good a title as any for what I hope will become the sole consistent post to run above my byline. In this case it refers to the side of the Sea of Reeds that the Israelites find themselves on upon the completion of their exodus from Egypt (see, it wasn’t so hard to work it into this weeks post. We’ll see how this works going forward…it could interesting/creative). The children of Jacob flee to far bank due to the heavy pursuit of Pharaoh after he realizes that his nation of slaves will not be returning to work come Monday morning, as he had been told…they are planning on taking an extended weekend of sorts.

The obvious question (asked and answered by many) is as follows: what was the point of Moshe requesting a mere three days of prayer if, in truth, there was never any intention of coming back to Egypt? Was Moshe lying, did he break his promise, did he knowingly deceive Pharaoh about what the true intentions were? Why would such an action have been necessary? I am going to provide two answers, one that I have heard from a number of sources and one that my father once explained to me:

A) The truth of the matter is that the Bnei Yisroel were in fact supposed to come back, just as Moshe had promised.

At the time when Moshe was sent by God to lead the Bnei Yisroel the people had reached what we call the 49th of the 50 levels of tumah (impurity). Had they reached that final level Chazal (the Sages) tell us that would not have been able to ever leave Egypt (I don’t pretend to know what this means or how this works but let’s take it as a given for the here and now). So, God tells Moshe to go and ask for three days of prayer during which the people could remove themselves, even just temporarily, from the hurtful atmosphere of Egypt. During this time they would go out into the desert and through whatever actions were available to them (prayer, sacrifices etc.) and with Moshe’s guidance be able to raise themselves up a few levels. Then they could go back into Egypt and the pre-ordained timeline (they still had quite a ways to go) of their servitude would continue without the risk of their becoming “irredeemable”.

The only problem was that Pharaoh said no, this threw a wrench into the whole proposed set-up. Since the people would not be able to leave for a short period in order to stall their decent God was forced, as it were, to change the plan. So, God made a “Keitz” of the years (He shortened it, the numerical value of keitz is 190) and revised the 400+ yrs. into a significantly shorter period of time. This would ensure that the Bnei Yisroel would be able to leave Egypt before “falling too far”.

B) You’re right, the three days was never intended to be a reality. Moshe knew the whole time that when they left it would be for good, there would be no coming back. The reason for the original request of three days was to prove a point, to make clear for all time what exactly was going on between Pharaoh and the Bnei Yisroel and more importantly between Pharaoh and God.

If you think about it, there was really no logical reason for Pharaoh to deny Moshe’s request. What would have been the big deal? Send out an army battalion with them into the desert and after three days bring them back. What are they gonna do, run? This is a slave nation that has no concept of battle, they are beaten and broken and would be in the middle of nowhere w/ no resources. Why NOT let them go? It would probably even be beneficial for him in the long run. They go out, recharge their batteries, he builds up a little goodwill with the workforce…it’s actually a pretty good idea.

Yet, he says no. Why?

The reason Pharaoh says no and the point that God is bringing into crystal clear view is that this had nothing to do with them as his slaves…it had EVERYTHING to do with them as God’s servants. The thing that Pharaoh could not allow, what really was driving the whole thing, was Bnei Yosroel’s acceptance, and his rejection, of the supreme dominion of God. THAT is what he was against, that is what he was waging battle against, that is what he could not condone…THAT was the real reason for all that he did and wished to continue doing to Bnei Yisroel. Had it just been about slaves wanting some time off he would have let them go, but since they wished to use the time in servitude to God he would not allow it. Moshe asks for three days knowing that he will be turned down because Moshe is aware of what is really going and what is truly driving the actions of Egypt’s ruler. He asks for three days in order to bring forth from Pharoah his true Rishus (wickedness) so that the Bnei Yisroel, then and forever, would know what was at stake, what was going on and, most importantly, what each of them represented.


--In honor of this weeks thought I present yet another man who was blessed by a higher power with the ability to see thing as they truly are...Mr. Gary Larson, we stand in awe:

http://static.flickr.com/27/43999485_28cb868c3a.jpg

**warning: possible offensive material present in link...you have been warned**

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