The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Shvat 4, 5769/January 29, 2009

"'Go to Pharaoh, and tell him: This is what HaShem, the G-d of the Hebrews, says: Let My people go, that they may serve Me.'"
(Exodus 9:1)

Plague after plague, G-d devastates the land of Egypt. Plague after plague, G-d reveals the utter impotence of the mighty Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth. G-d almost seems to be toying with Pharaoh, much like a boxer might spar playfully with an opponent, knowing all the while that one mighty blow of his fist will down his adversary and end the fight right there. Why does G-d invest so much in Pharaoh?

This "greatest show on earth," that begins with the first plague of the blood and will culminate with the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, is not being produced for Pharaoh's benefit. The ten plague progression is done solely for the benefit of the Hebrew slaves. They need to see G-d's might. They need to witness G-d's love for them.

"And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry rose up to G-d by reason of the bondage. And G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.." (Exodus 2:24)

Here, too, we can ask the question: How could G-d have remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? In order to do so, He would have had to forget His covenant, and that surely is not possible. The Torah is teaching us that G-d is reviving within the hearts of Israel their longing for the G-d of their fathers.

Longing for G-d is but the beginning of the redemptive process. The sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then had to reawaken to G-d's presence in their lives, and, through the ten plagues, His will as it is expressed through the day to day events that become our history. The final preparations for redemption comes in the form of the instruction: "Speak now in the ears of the people, and let them ask every man of his friend, and every woman of her friend, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.'" (Exodus 11:2)

The prevalent understanding is that G-d is referring to the Egyptians when using the word "friend." Yet what friendship existed between the Egyptians and the Israelites? Another interpretation is that "friends" refers to fellow Hebrews. The message is that now that your longing for G-d's providence has been rekindled, and now that you understand that the world, and all that is contained within it, even the most powerful of earthly potentates, is subject to G-d's will, and that G-d's will is to redeem you from Egyptian bondage, now you must prove yourselves worthy: Ask a kindness of a friend, and extend a kindness to a friend. Show that you are of one heart, united in your desire to worship G-d as He requires.

All that has transpired up to this point, G-d's remembrance of the children of Israel and the nine plagues He has visited upon Egypt, all this is a prelude to what is to follow: The final plague of the first-born, the midnight exodus from Egypt, and the ultimate passage from servitude to redemption, at the crossing of the Sea of Reeds.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the Rabbi's recent trip to America, the old friends and new that he met, the new month of Shvat, the signs & wonders of parashat Bo that shook Egypt, exile, redemption, and more.

Part 1
Part 2