After the ninth plague Pharaoh’s heart is almost broken and he declares the following to Moshe;
“Go! Worship Hashem, but your flocks and your cattle shall be left. Your young children may also go with you.”( Exodus 10:24)
It is then that Moshe declares an unusual request. Extremely unusual considering the hundreds of years of slavery his people have endured and the wondrous opportunity that had arisen.
“But Moshe said, “You too shall give sacrifices and burnt offerings into our hands, and we will make them for Hashem our G-d.And also our cattle will go with us; not a [single] hoof will remain, for we will take from it to worship Hashem our G-d, and we do not know what we will need when we will worship Hashem until we arrive there.” ( ibid 25-26).
One wonders what the people who may have heard of this exchange may have thought. Finally a true opportunity to escape the pain and the hardships of Egyptian slavery had arrived, and Moshe begins an argument about sheep and cattle !
One is also struck by a further declaration by G-d to Moshe
“ Hashem said to Moshe (Moses), “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here. When he lets you out, he will completely drive you out of here. Please, speak into the ears of the people, and let them borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver vessels and golden vessels.” So Hashem gave the people favor in the Egyptians’ eyes; also the man Moshe was highly esteemed in the eyes of Pharaoh’s servants and in the eyes of the people”.(Exodus 11:1-3 )
Why would these material issues seem to be a priority at this delicate time?
In order to understand this we must remember that the Exodus from Egypt was not just about the physical and spiritual freedom of the children of Israel.
It was all about letting the world know that G-d is G-d.
It was about conquering and vanquishing the spiritual concept of Egypt and all that Egypt represented in the world. Victorious armies marching out representing a victorious ideal do not escape like fleeing paupers and bandits. While it is true that the gold and jewels they amassed were a fitting and correct payment for the hundreds of years of servitude and harsh labor. Yet it also symbolized the beginning of a proud and important new people and theology.
On a deeper level mankind’s journey through the physical realm is all about elevating that physical realm into a higher level of purpose. That was the deeper meaning to their long stay in Egypt in the first place. That was the other meaning behind the importance of the sheep, cattle, jewels and riches. The jewels and tapestries were used to create the holy tabernacle and those same sheep and cattle were used as sacrifices to G-d in that desert tabernacle.
Yet there is another level of understanding as well.
The words expressed by Moshe to Pharaoh reveal a great spiritual insight;
“not a [single] hoof will remain, for we will take from it to worship Hashem our G-d, and we do not know what we will need when we will worship Hashem until we arrive there.” ( ibid 10:26)
We all are released, prodded cajoled or invited into our individual or corporate spiritual Journeys. We sense that we must move forward but are not always aware of what awaits us on that journey.
Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, knew G-d, and the Bible goes on to describe that Enoch ( Enosh) and Noah walked with G-d. However, Abraham was given a different task: “Hashem appeared to Abram, and said unto him: ‘I am G-d Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.'” (Genesis 17:1) Abraham is bidden to be courageous and walk before G-d, not next to Him. Abraham is asked to have the faith to walk into the unknown sensing that G-d is behind him at all times.
That is the journey put before us. In order to embark on such a journey one must prepare both spiritually and even physically. All that is put before us, must be explored, adapted and conscripted for the voyage ahead. ” We do not know what we will need when we will worship Hashem until we arrive there.”(Exodus 10:26).
The people of Israel and as a result, all of us, need to gather all their strengths ,dreams and visions to begin the journey into true spiritual freedom.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved