" /> Moshe’s “Inn-Experience” – Shemos – L’Refuah Shileimah: Menachem Mendel Shlomo Ben Chaya Rochel // L’Ilui Nishmas: Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H/Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H/Moshe Ben Yosef A”H – Josh Eisenberg Dvar Torah
This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H,  my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
      It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta

-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL

-HaRav Gedalia Dov Ben Perel
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili

-Yechiel Baruch HaLevi Ben Liba Gittel
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah

-Amitai Dovid Ben Rivka Shprintze
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.

 


בס”ד

 

 שְׁמוֹת ●  Shemos

● Why would G-d attempt to kill Moshe after assigning him a mission? ●


“By Your Blood You Shall Live”

     As we’ve been discussing until now, early on in Shemos, the Torah describes the Egyptian subjugation of the B’nei Yisrael. Matters only got worse for the B’nei Yisrael when Pharaoh issued a decree of infanticide against all of the Hebrew newborn boys in fear of his stargazers’ astrological readings that a Hebrew savior had been born.1

But, by G-d’s intervention, despite the ploy of Pharaoh and his advisers, the newborn Moshe Rabbeinu would be hidden away by his mother, guarded by his sister, and spared by Pharaoh’s own daughter until the time would come when he, G-d’s handpicked savior of the B’nei Yisrael, would be summoned for that very mission.2 Indeed, in Pharaoh’s own palace, the Hebrew savior was incubated so that as Pharaoh plotted Israelite destruction, G-d was hatching Israelite salvation.

 

With this background, matters seem perfect for the B’nei Yisrael moving forward. But, as we’ve seen, it was not that simple…

 

 

Convincing the Messenger

As was mentioned, when G-d initially appeared to Moshe in the burning bush with the command that he become the advocate of the B’nei Yisrael, Moshe was not interested.3 Hashem would just have to convince him. Thus, Hashem and Moshe argued it out until G-d’s anthropomorphic “anger” would flare at Moshe. At that point, Hashem told Moshe that his brother Aharon would gladly accompany him and help him speak to be Pharaoh, but Moshe would have no choice but to go.

By this point, we would think that all has been said and that the coast is clear. All Moshe would need to do is pack his family, head back Egypt, and nothing could go wrong. That said, Moshe would not have been the only one to be surprised about what ultimately happened next.

“Don’t shoot the messenger!”

 

Vayehi VaDerech BaMalon Vayigisheihu Hashem Vayivakeish HaMiso”-“It was on the way, in the lodging, that Hashem encountered him and sought to kill him [lit., cause him to die].”4

What exactly had happened? Moshe was finally on his way to Egypt to fulfill his G-d given mission, until all of a sudden, the Torah tells us that Hashem stopped him and sought to kill him. But, why in the world would He do such a thing? This choice by G-d appears not only unreasonably harsh, but completely random and counterproductive to His own plan. For these reasons among others, this event is one of the most, if not the most, enigmatic affairs recorded in the entire Torah. Indeed, not only is the nature of this confrontation obscure, but this event’s most simple read does not seem to fit the larger context of the surrounding passages; in fact, it contradicts its larger context.

In a humble attempt to summarize this mini story, we’ll just say that for some reason, as Moshe Rabbeinu was doing exactly as Hashem had commanded him—returning to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, Hashem, or an angel of Hashem, “sought to kill him,” until his wife Tzipporah performed a Bris Milah on their son, after which Moshe was spared.5 If you’re still lost, you’re certainly not alone.

Rashi quotes the Midrashic explanation of this event, explaining that Moshe had not yet given his son a Bris Milah, and that an angel of Hashem came to Moshe in the form of a serpent, swallowed Moshe from his head down to the area of his own Bris, released him and swallowed him again, but the second time, from his feet up to the area of his Bris, apparently to highlight and demarcate Moshe’s mistake, the neglect of circumcision.6 At that point, Tzipporah apparently took the hint, performed the Bris Milah for their son upon which Moshe was released.

Perhaps, the Midrash can explain why Hashem would be upset with Moshe and how Tzipporah knew that the lack of Bris Milah was the problem. But, other than that, this story is truly a mystifying and the Midrash can hardly explain the larger problems with this narrative. For example, was Hashem actually about to kill Moshe? How could G-d have targeted Moshe’s life, whatever that means, as Moshe was carrying out His will? Why shoot the messenger?

 

“We need you”—“We don’t need you”

 

To take this question a step further, we know that G-d had just spent the whole last while pressuring Moshe and making it abundantly clear that Moshe was indispensable to the mission, that no one else, only Moshe, could do this job of confronting Pharaoh. Moshe had no choice. Even if Aharon would come along, Moshe would have to do it.

If that is true, then what exactly would have been if Tzipporah didn’t come to the rescue to circumcise their son? Moshe would’ve died, apparently, and then what? Would the B’nei Yisrael have remained in Galus? Would there have been another way out? Would G-d have simply sent someone else, as Moshe had originally insisted? Is so, was Moshe really necessary for the mission or not? Whichever option you choose, there’s a question. If Moshe was indispensable, how could Hashem have threatened to kill him here? And yet, if Moshe really was dispensable, why did Hashem force him specifically to do the mission implying that only he could fulfill it? He should just have let Aharon step up, or had anyone else fulfill that mission.

With all the above in mind, how are we supposed to understand this passage’s place in the narrative? In order to understand these issues, we’ll have to inspect both the text and context a bit further.

 

Bridegroom of Blood5

 

This passage about Hashem’s “attempt” to kill Moshe is not only strange in terms of the larger plot, but in the nature of its presentation. For one thing, as was already explained, the passage is obscure and ambiguous in that it shows up unexpectedly and without any apparent cause. It does not appear to be connected to the story.

A good detective would put two and two together and suggest that the lack of circumcision on Moshe’s son had something to do with Hashem’s attempt to kill Moshe. Tzipporah figured out that much. That aside, why was Moshe being blindsided with this explosive response from G-d instead of being warned or chastised?

Moreover, there is something else that is obviously wrong with this mini-narrative, in its textual presentation. There are basic details that are left unclear. For example, there are points in the story in which proper nouns ought to be specified, but are instead, left as vague pronouns. For example, the Torah states that Hashem encountered “him” and wanted to kill “him.”5 The question is: Whom exactly did He encounter, and whom did He want to kill? Our best guess would be the main character until now, Moshe. But, the text doesn’t tell us that explicitly. Then, the Torah relates that Tzipporah circumcised her son and then “he” is let go. Again, the direct object is left noticeably unnamed. Could the Torah not have just specificed “Moshe” once, and remove any doubt? Why did the Torah choose here to be so mysterious? Was Hashem truly targeting Moshe or was there someone else at risk?

Furthermore, in this obscure text, Tzipporah refers to either Moshe or her son—again, it’s unclear from the text—as a “Chassan Damim,”5 literally, a “bridegroom of blood.” She would use this expression twice, once as she circumcised her son and once immediately after that. The question is what that means. What is a “Chassan Damim”?

Bris Milah – Religious Identity

 

R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch addresses a couple of our questions, focusing on the major difficulty in the words, “Vayivakeish HaMiso”-“And He sought to kill him.” From the end of this passage, it is clear that everyone made it out of situation unscathed. Moshe was alive and well. If that was the case, then it is difficult to understand what it means that G-d “sought” to take Moshe’s life. Presumably, this Pasuk could not be taken in a completely literal sense, because, as R’ Hirsch points out, if G-d truly “seeks” something, He, being Almighty and All-Powerful, should instantly achieve that goal, in this case, Moshe’s death. In other words, if G-d really wanted Moshe to die, Moshe would have died on the spot. And since, as we’ve argued, G-d had already sent Moshe on a mission to go down to Egypt to save the B’nei Yisrael, He evidently never intended that Moshe just be killed at this point. There is no way.

Therefore, what these words must mean, R’ Hirsch explains, is simply that G-d was theoretically “prepared” to kill Moshe. Apparently, although there was no intention to act on this “pursuit” of Moshe’s life, Moshe was rightfully deserving of death at that moment, even given the fact that he was in the middle of carrying out G-d’s plan. But, why?

As the text indicates, this encounter has something to do with Bris Milah which Moshe’s son still lacked. G-d “sought” Moshe’s life because Moshe had not circumcised his son. R’ Hirsch, focusing on the icon of Bris Milah, explains that Moshe was about to set out to introduce the salvation of G-d’s people who had been uniquely founded on this special symbol of spirituality and Divine loyalty—the Bris Milah, so that for Moshe to go down to Egypt without having circumcised his son would be almost hypocritical and set the wrong example for Am Yisrael.

In fact, according to one Midrash, at the onset of the Egyptian Exile, the B’nei Yisrael discontinued the practice of Bris Milah.7 That means that they were neglecting their identity. But, Bris Milah was not just a sign of their unique identity, but it was specifically reflective of their religious identity. Consider how the B’nei Yisrael had not yet received the Torah. That means that the only other commandments they had would have been responsible for were the Seven Noahide Laws for which all of mankind was responsible. The commandments of reproduction and not eating from the Gid HaNasheh (sciatic nerve) may have been relevant, but were certainly not yet binding. Bris Milah, however, was a religiously binding covenant from the time of Avraham Avinu. It was their entire Torah, their religious identity. The salvation could not have possibly begun with a savior who was also neglecting that identity.

What the Pasuk is then saying, in a sense, is that it would have been better that Moshe be killed than to be in such a position, or that Moshe was as good as dead if he had gone to Egypt sending everyone the wrong message by not having his son circumcised. Bris Milah was a prerequisite for the redemption.

 

The above provides a great insight into the key role of Bris Milah in not only our story, but the entire story of the Egyptian Exile and Exodus. But, it does not completely solve the mysterious and ambiguous nature of our passage. It still remains one of the most awkward nonsequetors in the entire Chumash. How does it fit the surrounding narrative? Perhaps, there is more here that we are still missing.

 

 

The Whole Story

 

Indeed, if we look at this passage in a vacuum, it’s hard to make any sense of it. And although we argued that it does not fit the context of the surrounding passages, maybe we should give them a second look. Indeed, if one looks closer at the way the full paragraph is divided in the Torah itself, there is actually more to this strange story. There is a prequel to the story, in the preceding verses. Apparently, our ambiguous two verses are meant to be read as a continuation of the previous verses. Further evidence to this passage’s connection to the previous verses lies in some striking textual cues.

 

  • The men who seek your soul8

The paragraph begins when Moshe informs Yisro that he would be going back to Egypt. At that point, Hashem assured Moshe that the coast was clear; “Leich Shuv Mitzrayim Ki Meisu Kal HaAnashim HaMivakshim Es Nafshecha”-“Go, return to Egypt for all the men who have sought your soul are dead.”8

Now, if one looks at this line alone in light of what we know happens later in the passage, it’s quite eerie; “All the men who have sought your soul are dead”—but that’s just the humans! But was Moshe’s life being sought by someone else? Moshe’s human pursuers are dead, but was someone else about to target him?

Vayifgisheihu Hashem Vayivakeish HaMiso”-“And Hashem encountered him and He sought to kill him.”4 Indeed, the same expression is used when Hashem Himself sought Moshe’s life, just a few verses from that point. Indeed, Hashem’s targeting of Moshe seems to have been ominously forewarned.

 

  • “By the way…” – One More Thing

Now, if one continues reading the passage from Hashem’s “assurance” to Moshe, the Torah relates that Moshe loaded his family onto a donkey and traveled towards Egypt.9 The next verse should probably feature a description of Moshe reaching Egypt, or so we would think. But, in fact, that is not what happens. Moshe was interrupted as G-d opened up a new speech:

Vayomer Hashem El Moshe B’Lechtecha LaShuv Mitzrayimah Re’eih Kal HaMofsim Asheir Samti V’Yadecha Va’Asisam Lifnei Pharaoh Va’Ani Achazeik Es Libo V’Lo Yishalach Es HaAm”-“And Hashem said to him, ‘When you go to return to Egypt, see all the wonders that I will place in your hand, and do them before Pharaoh, and I will strengthen the heart of Pharaoh, and he will not send the nation.”10

In simpler words, G-d interjects, “By the way, when you go down Egypt,” which Moshe was seemingly in the middle of doing, “see what I’m going to do to Pharaoh.” The question is why Hashem could not have made this point earlier? G-d obviously did not forget. Apparently, for some reason, He purposely waited for Moshe to be on the road before urging him to “see the wonders” that He’s going to do to Pharaoh, almost as if Hashem intended this as a separate, side mission, a bonus mission for Moshe—to pay attention to what Hashem is going to do. But, what exactly did He want Moshe to look out for and why?

 

  • As you travel…” – the Wonders on the Way

 

Furthermore, Hashem specified that Moshe should be on the lookout, “B’Lechtecha LaShuv Mitzrayimah”-“when you are going to return to Egypt10—that he should see what Hashem is going to do to Pharaoh. Now, what does that mean? How could Moshe see what Hashem is going to do to Pharaoh while he was on the road to Egypt? That is not when Hashem was going to show the wonders that He was planning to perform against Pharaoh. We know the story—that all happens in Egypt itself, in the land, not “when you are going to return to Egypt.”

Indeed, perhaps the above is why Rashi here, perforce, assumes that Hashem meant that Moshe should see the wonders that Hashem would do in the future, before Pharaoh. As for the odd word, “B’Lechtecha”-“as you are going,” Rashi understands that Hashem was intimating that it was for the sake of those eventual wonders that he was traveling.

But, if that is all true, why would Hashem have conveyed all of this information in such an awkward way? There are clearer ways to indicate the same message. Why tell him to pay attention to the wonders on the road, “B’Lechtecha”—as he was going? It almost sounds like Hashem was suggesting that there were going to be wonders happening “on the road to Egypt.” But, there were no wonders on the road, were there?

 

  • And I say to you: ‘You have refused…’”12

And yet, there is another piece to this strange puzzle. Hashem urged Moshe to see the wonders, and then commanded him, “V’Amarta El Pharaoh B’ni Bechori Yisrael”-“And you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘so says Hashem: My firstborn son is Yisrael.”11 Then, He continued, “V’Omar Eilecha Shalach Es B’ni Vaya’avdeini Vatima’ein L’Shalcho Hineih Anochi Horeig Es Bincha Bechorecha”-“And I say to you: Send my son so he shall serve, but you have refused to send him, behold I will kill your firstborn son.’”12

Now, the question of the ambiguous pronouns returns. Who is the addressee of that second line, starting from “Va’Omar Eilecha…”-“And I say to you”? From the outset, the simplest and most obvious reading is that of course, Hashem means for Moshe to tell this second line to Pharaoh, that Pharaoh has to send forth the B’nei Yisrael so that they may serve Hashem, and that if and when Pharaoh would refuse to do so, his firstborns would be killed. That’s the undoubted manifest content.

But isn’t it strange that Hashem precedes the statement with the line, “And I say to you”? After all, Hashem’s quotation was already directed to Pharaoh. For whom else could this message have possibly been intended? Why did G-d need to redirect the message with words, “And I say to you”?

As wild as it may sound, Hashem might have, in some hidden way, been directing His speech to Moshe as well as Pharaoh. It is in the very next verse—in the same passage and paragraph—that Hashem would come after Moshe on account of his uncircumcised son. Moreover, Ibn Ezra cites Rav Shmuel Ben Chofni, that in fact, Hashem was not trying to kill Moshe, but his son! Might Hashem have, in some way, been responding to Moshe who had initially refused to go down to Egypt to help send out the B’nei Yisrael? Is all of that coming back to haunt Moshe?

Before we get carried away, Ibn Ezra rejects the possibility that Hashem was talking to Moshe immediately; he actually argues that anyone who thinks that Hashem’s speech was directed to Moshe is ignorant, especially since the Midrash we cited above argues that the son in question was his second-born Eliezer and not Moshe’s firstborn Gershom. Ibn Ezra argues that the term “Va’Omar Eilecha”-“And I say to you” simply means that Moshe was to tell Pharaoh later, “I have told you time and time again.”

Notwithstanding the legitimacy of Ibn Ezra’s argument, Targum Yonasan actually argues against him, in line with exactly what we’re suggesting here, that the uncircumcised son in our passage actually was the firstborn, Gershom (and not Eliezer).13 That means that according to Targum Yonasan, Hashem was targeting Moshe for not sending forth his own firstborn son from the spiritual shackles of the foreskin, for not giving his son a Bris Milah! Moreover, even if the son in question was Eliezer as Ibn Ezra suggests, it’s still quite uncanny that we have a threat from Hashem that is followed by a random attack on Moshe’s family a single verse later.

The Other Cues and Clues

 

The continued ambiguity of the text does seem to suggest that Hashem, in some way, was actually pinning a measure of blame on Moshe. Again, the Torah had alluded to the fact that someone wants to kill Moshe (even if humans were not actually his problem). And for some reason, Hashem wanted Moshe to keep his eyes out for some wonder that He was eventually going to do to Pharaoh, “on the way to Egypt,” followed by a warning that he who refuses to send forth G-d’s firstborn will suffer. It was almost as if Hashem was mischievously winking at Moshe before He “ensnared” him at the inn.

All of these verses are the backdrop for what follows, our mysterious verses; “Vayehi VaDerech BaMalon Vayifgisheihu Hashem Vayivakeish Hamiso”-“It was on the way, in the lodging, that Hashem encountered him and sought to kill him [lit., cause him to die].”4 Again, we’re not told whom Hashem wanted to kill—it could have been Moshe or his son, whichever of the sons. It doesn’t matter though. What matters is that Hashem had seemingly plotted out this snare for Moshe from the outset.

Why would Moshe have been subject to this death threat? What happened? He wasn’t even told that the circumcision would be an issue. Besides, he was on the way to do what Hashem had told him to do. Moreover, Moshe never even wanted to do the mission altogether. He never cared to. Why would Hashem attempt to stop him in his tracks?

Moshe as a Model Pharaoh

 

Perhaps though, Moshe’s initial refusal was exactly where the problem had been the whole time; Moshe did not want to accept the mission of redeeming the B’nei Yisrael from Egypt. He didn’t want any part it.

We know that Moshe tried to identify with his Hebrew brethren as he killed an Egyptian taskmaster for terrorizing a Hebrew officer. He had a will to champion their cause. However, Moshe’s Hebrew identification would be called into question soon after when his own brethren talked down to him and even possibly informed the Egyptian authorities of his murder of the Egyptian taskmaster. When the rejected Moshe fled to Midian, he proceeded to start anew; he met his wife Tzipporah the daughter of Yisro and started his family.

When G-d appeared to Moshe in the burning bush with the command to be the advocate of the B’nei Yisrael, Moshe was not interested, seemingly rightfully so (and he would provide many reasons for his opposition). After extensive back-and-forth discussion, Moshe had no choice. He was chosen as G-d’s messenger through whom the B’nei Yisrael would be redeemed and saved from Egypt. And Moshe was on his way. Does it matter that Moshe had initially refused and perhaps still did not want to engage in the mission? Shouldn’t Hashem have been satisfied that Moshe was going at all? Granted, Moshe didn’t have a choice, but who cares if Moshe was going with goodwill or not?

The answer might be that although Moshe would have rathered not bother, Hashem’s “firstborn” is at stake and that should have been enough to convince Moshe. It was not enough for Moshe to do it because he was being forced to, but rather, he had to see it as his mission, that there was a personal need for him to fulfill it. He had to become emotionally invested in the mission, perhaps, see it as though his own life or perhaps his own son’s life were at stake. Moshe Rabbeinu was a master of empathy who would have to channel that emotion to become the B’nei Yisrael’s savior.

Apparently, so essential was Moshe’s personal will to this mission that Hashem had to interrupt him on the way. Hashem told him to look out for the wonders—which wonders? The wonders that Hashem was placing in Moshe’s own hands while he was on the road! On the road, Hashem showed Moshe a simulation of his own life at stake. He showed him how it feels to need redemption! He showed him how it feels to be worthy of death, and to need the merit and intervention of someone else to save him and provide that redemption! Hashem showed Moshe how easily it could’ve been him in harm’s way. Indeed, it was out of G-d’s will that Moshe was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter and spared from both death and slavery years earlier. It was due to G-d’s will that Moshe could get away and create a family. It didn’t have to be that way. This enigmatic story was Moshe’s initiation designed to trigger and evoke the old empathy he once had for his brethren.

What emerges is that when Hashem prepared His speech for Moshe to deliver to Pharaoh, He was also hinting a message to Moshe and using Moshe as an analogy, or a model for Pharaoh. Moshe’s neglect of his son’s circumcision and his refusal to advocate for the B’nei Yisrael are both models for Pharaoh’s subjugation of the B’nei Yisrael and his refusal to send them forth. And in either case, Hashem was not going to ultimately use brute force to “get what He wanted.” On the contrary, He was going to convince Pharaoh to bend to his whim.

All of that explains why Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart. If one thinks about it, the idea of hardening Pharaoh’s heart seems strange and counter-intuitive if He was trying to compel Pharaoh to free the B’nei Yisrael. However, Hashem’s goal was not to force Pharaoh’s hand by way of plague, but to educate him to use his free will to recognize Hashem and thereby obey. Thus, Sforno explains that Hashem had hardened his heart in order to allow him to withstand the plagues so that he could make his own decisions. Hashem did so because in His plan, no one is forced to do anything. Just as Hashem would harden Pharaoh’s heart and allow him to endure the plagues until he would intellectually accept the will of G-d and free His people on his own, Hashem would not simply force Moshe’s hand, but He would educate Moshe and recruit him and ultimately get him behind the mission.

By Your Blood, You Shall Live!14

 

We mentioned that in our passage, Tzipporah refers to Moshe (or their son) as a Chassan Damim, a bridegroom of blood, twice. However, the second time, she actually calls him a “Chassan Damim LaMulos”-“a bridegroom of blood for [the sake of] circumcisions.” What did these two terms mean?

Well, what does it mean that Moshe was married to blood? It seems to be that Moshe, symbolically, became “married” to blood, in other words, his destiny had changed so that his life would be at stake. But once Tzipporah circumcised their child, she traded Moshe’s blood for the blood of circumcision, thereby redeeming Moshe’s blood. Thus, Moshe became a “Chassan Damim LaMulos,” in other words, his blood had been redeemed. This idea, Ibn Ezra explains, is the meaning of the line in Navi which is recited both at the Pesach Seder and at a ceremony for Bris Milah, “V’Omar Lach B’Domayich Chayi”-“And I will say to you, by your blood, you shall live.”14 The idea is that our lives belong to G-d, and that our will must therefore merge with G-d’s will. It means one has to sacrifice some “blood.” By “sacrificing our blood” and devoting our will to Him wholeheartedly, we redeem our blood and ultimately live.

 

 

Moshe as a Microcosm of Israel

Thus, if one thinks about it, our passage is not only an analogy for Pharaoh, but it’s a parable which also demonstrates what it is Hashem demands of the B’nei Yisrael by the final plague which we’ve already alluded to, Makkas Bechoros (Smiting of the Firstborns).15

Hashem would command the B’nei Yisrael to make a major sacrifice, slaughtering sheep, the Egyptian deity, and placing its blood all over their door frames. Those who did so were spared from the plague—the sheep blood was in place of their blood, just as the circumcision blood redeemed Moshe’s. Of course, though, that exchange would always be a choice.

 

What is this service to you?16

 

Related, the Pesach Haggadah quotes the “wicked son” as asking, “Mah HaAvodah HaZos Lachem?”-“What [worth] is this service to you?16 In other words, he feels that he can throw off the Divine yoke because “what’s in it for me?” And at the end of the day, that is his choice.

What is daunting though is that this line was actually borrowed from the preparation for Makkas Bechoros16, when the people had every reason to want to do the service, as their lives depended on the blood of the sacrifice! But they didn’t have to do it. Just like Pharaoh, they had a choice. In the end, the answer the wicked son is given is that had he been there—and not observed the services—he would not have been redeemed. But that, again, would have been his choice. He didn’t have to be emotionally invested in the service, but surely it would have been his best interests.

Moshe had a family and was not a slave in Egypt. He wasn’t bound to the mission of redeeming the B’nei Yisrael because of his personal pain from backbreaking labor. He did not care by any means for the glory. His wife and children were not at risk, and neither was he. He could have theoretically gone down to Egypt without resolve. However, Hashem bound Moshe’s own life to this mission, demonstrating that his own fate was as well dependent on this mission. Why? Because Moshe, like anyone and everyone else, would live only by G-d’s graciousness, and therefore Moshe, as well as all of mankind, would owe his life to G-d. As Moshe cared for his own skin and his own sons, he would also demonstrate this concern for G-d’s firstborn, and G-d’s selected mission for him. He had to literally put his own blood into this mission. He had to do this so that he could eventually teach the very same lessons to Pharaoh and to the B’nei Yisrael, that although there is free will, it is in one’s best interests to sacrifice his heart—his blood, sweat and tears, to the will of G-d, because ultimately, “B’Domayich Chayi”—it is by your blood shall you truly live.

May we all be Zocheh to inspire ourselves to be emotionally invested in the mission towards our Geulah and the Geulah of our family of Acheinu Kal Beis Yisrael and Hashem should remove us all from She’ibud to the final Geulah with the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!

-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂

 

  1. Rashi to Shemos 1:10 citing Shemos Rabbah 1:9
  2. Shemos 2
  3. 3-4
  4. 4:24
  5. 4:24-26
  6. Rashi based on Nedarim 31B-32A and Shemos Rabbah 5:5
  7. Shemos Rabbah 1:8
  8. Shemos 4:19
  9. 4:20
  10. 4:21
  11. 4:22
  12. 4:23
  13. Ramban [to 4:20] as well entertains such a possibility, that the son targeted by Hashem was none other than his firstborn Gershom. This overall reading of the story is perhaps supported by the Rokei’ach who suggests that Yisro made Moshe pledge not to give his son a Bris Milah. The motivation is a complicated, separate discussion beyond the scope of ours and this footnote.
  14. Yechezkeil 16:6
  15. Shemos 12-13
  16. Based on Shemos 12:26
  17. 12:27