This week’s reading is from the portion of the Torah that starts with the word “Bo” (“Come to Pharaoh”). The Biblical narrative in this portion of the Torah is probably one of the more dramatic and more influential of the whole Biblical narrative including all the way to the book of Revelation. This is the story of the actual exodus, the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt after near 400 years of living in Egypt, and around 200 of these years living in Egypt as slaves of the Pharaohs.
Pharaoh has hardened his own heart and refused to allow the children of Israel to depart from Egypt and return to the land of Canaan. However, we must not forget that the Land of Canaan at that time was an Egyptian province.
What Pharaoh and his “wisemen” objected to was for the children of Israel to stop being his slaves. Pharaoh objected to the release of the Israelites from their servitude. They were cheap labor and an economic benefit to Pharaoh and his household and to Egypt as a whole.
Egypt was one of the largest and most powerful empires of the Bronze Age, approximately between 2500 and 1000 B.C.E. Most of this period of 1500 years, Egypt ruled from Tunisia in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, from across the heel of the boot of Italy, to Lake Victoria in Africa and on the East the Red Sea and the Straits of Hormuz.
The Israelites were not the only slave group that was serving Egypt at that time. There were many other Asian and African slaves under the yoke of the Pharaoh in the second half of the second Millennium B.C.E., that were in servitude to Egypt.
Allowing the Israelites to leave and be free would have unraveled the whole economic structure of the Egyptian empire. What Pharaoh and his magicians and wisemen didn’t know, is who the God of Israel was. It is for this reason that after Pharaoh hardened his own heart several times in the earlier chapters of the book of Exodus, now for the grand finale God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
This is what the text says:
“Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.’” – Exodus 10:1,2 [NKJV]
I feel that God is showing His hand to Moses and Aaron and the children of Israel. This is one of these fascinating points in God’s dealing with Israel and with all of His children.
We, both Jews and Christians have a very naïve view of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. In the Bible, and especially in the Passover narrative, God reveals Himself as a very cunning and media-minded all-powerful ruler. Might I say a very benevolent tyrant, who’s will and desire always gets carried out in full.
We must not forget this point, my dear brothers and sisters, that we are dealing with the God who at least created our whole galaxy, including the sun and the moon and all the planets and stars, and maybe much more than our galaxy…
In the first words of our Torah portion this Shabbat God shows special interest in the heritage that we, the children of Israel, will have for the future generations. This is what God tells Moses and Aaron are the reasons why He hardened Pharaoh’s heart not to allow the children of Israel to leave earlier.
These are the reasons that God gives Moses for this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart:
“that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”
If I translate these texts into our own language and time it would be something like this:
“I am doing this to Pharaoh and Egypt for an educational program for the next generations of the Israelite children. I want to educate your children, and I might say the whole world over, so that they might know who is ‘I AM.’”
This same idea is repeated again in our portion of the Torah reading this week in Exodus 12:23-27:
“For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” – Exodus 12:23-27 [NKJV]
This is one of these texts that totally amazes me and gives me chills. Here is the Creator of the world. Yes, the whole world and everything that is in it – from the tadpole to the rhinoceros, from the tsunami in the ocean to the highest mountains in the Himalaya, all is created and made by the God of Israel: “For He so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son…”
With all of God’s power and eternity under His belt, He worries about our next generation, about our snot-nosed children. Especially in these very dramatic historical moments, The Creator Himself is thinking about our next generation, about how we are going to share and teach and educate our next generations.
This is not only here dear brothers and sisters. In the holiest text in the whole Bible notice what God is instructing us to do:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [NKJV]
Just after this greatest of all proclamations in the Bible, a proclamation that is alluded to from the book of Exodus to the book of Revelation, the next words of God come down from the Olympus of theology and addresses the issue of “your children”. The Creator of the Universe is concerned with our children, with the future generations of disciples of Yeshua our Messiah.
I realize that I got carried away with this very important theme in the Torah and in the prophets, and also in the New Testament. However, I am sad to say that in most Christian circles, churches, and communities, the children are not always at the top of the interests and priorities of the church. For this reason, there are so many seemingly devout Christian families who have lost at least some of their children to the world.
For our children are the most efficient and sensitive Geiger counters of an honest and sincere relationship with the Creator. (Geiger counters are detectors of nuclear radiation, or in this case, spiritual bad-smelling stuff.) For this reason God, in His divine revelation, puts these most important moments in the holy history of salvation and emphasizes the importance of the children and the next generations.
I realize that our Torah reading has so many important aspects and themes that carry through the whole bible to the book of Revelation, but I did get carried away with these first verses because I see the degradation of the youth and the next generations of followers of the Messiah in the world.
I see the emphasis of the churches on the physical plant, the building, and other important things for the community, but the most important things that God puts so much emphasis upon are less emphasized and less invested.
Sorry, for being carried away with this theme, but no apology. Your youth ministers (you should have more than one, at least one male and one female youth minister), they ought to be your premium and best-educated most supervised and best paid servants in your community, and the youth programs ought to be your most financially-invested.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.