The story of the Exodus and the Jewish people's forty-year survival in the desert has no equal within the annals of human history.
Moshe (Moses), Aharon (Aaron), and Miriam were rare personalities. They guided the Jewish people during this period.
It is truly amazing that our great leaders came from one family. Their father was Amram and their mother was Yocheved.
Very little is known about the parents. Amram was leader of the generation. He was one of four people who never sinned their entire lifetime. The other three are Benyamin (Benjamin) son of Yaakov (Jacob), David's father Yishai, and David's son Kalev (Shabbos 55b).
Yocheved was the midwife who stood up to Pharaoh and refused to murder the Jewish children. (Exodus 1:15-22)
Around eighty years before the Exodus, G-d needed a Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam to be born. He selected this unique couple to bring all three into this world.
G-d frequently assigns constructive tasks to good people.
The reverse is also true. When it was necessary for tragedy to befall the Jewish people, G-d selected the evil Pharaoh to make it happen.
The Egyptians initially viewed the plagues as isolated and natural events and were able to explain away each one. The magicians tried to play down the significance of the plagues.
Moshe's chief role was just not to bring supernatural plagues upon Egypt. His role was also to predict them. As such, even when the plagues appeared to be natural events, his true forecast strengthened the belief in G-d's management of the world. It also demonstrated Moshe's relationship with G-d.
At great expense, they finally allowed themselves to see the pattern of events. They came to recognize the connection between the will of G-d, their behavior, Moshe's words, and the plagues.
G-d does not expect Mankind to base its behavior on supernatural events. Judaism itself is not based on the supernatural. Rather, it is based upon patterns. It is up to each person and the nation as a whole to recognize them and then accept their implications.
By design, Man uses patterns to justify behavior. The guy who is 'lucky' enough to be a three-time winner of the twenty-million dollar lottery is in danger of being rubbed to death by his peers.
A bias can cause a person to selectively ignore a pattern. We need to fear our day of judgment. G-d may point out inconsistencies in our recognizing the patterns that He presented to us during our lifetime.
For over two-thousand years, G-d ceased to directly communicate with us. Yet through the patterns of events we sometime feel that He is giving us a message. There are no rules that we can use to determine whether it's really His message or not.
I know of a person who was living in Israel and was under severe financial stress. His only potential resource was a friend who owed him some money. He hadn't seen him in years. Everything else was exhausted.
One night he threw in the towel and decided to return to America. He sadly began his evening prayer.
Someone knocked at the door.
It was the friend and his wife.
They later told him that he looked as if he had just seen a ghost.
He remained in Israel and is now OK.
Moshe was the master prophet. Of all Jewish prophets, he was the only one worthy of G-d speaking directly to him.
It is important to view Moshe's role as being the link between G-d and the Jewish people. He was a conduit and therefore needed to have a transparent personality. Indeed, the Torah credits him with being the most unassuming person of all humanity. (Numbers 12:3)
Thus, Moshe was a most unlikely person to lead the Jewish people. He was raised in the most non-Jewish environment in all of Egypt, Pharaoh's home. He also had a speech impediment that was severe enough to ruin any natural chance for a political career. It didn't matter. Moshe's words were based upon truth and backed by G-d.
The transparency extended into his personal life. Of all the people he brought out of Egypt, all but two died during his lifetime. He himself never made it to Israel. Nobody knows where he is buried to pay respects. His children did not inherit his position.
Moshe is our great teacher.
Aharon was the great peace keeper.
He gave wicked people his heart-felt Shalom when he met them. It made such an impression on them that the thought of meeting Aharon again discouraged them from continuing their evil behavior.
He would meet off-line with people who were quarreling. He got to them one at a time and told each party that the other person deeply regretted offending him. He remained with each one until he was certain that there was no more resentment. He was so effective that the opponents embraced at the next meeting.
Many thousands of children were named Aharon because he saved many marriages and those children would not have been born without his involvement. (Avos D'rav Noson 12:3)
Given his involvement with the Golden Calf, Aharon was the most unlikely person to be selected Kohen Gadol (High Priest). G-d recognized that he chose to become involved in order to stall off the forbidden worship. He failed, but he really tried.
Although he was the oldest in the family, Aharon was happy to hear that Moshe was selected by G-d to be the chief spokesman. He was above jealousy.
He was all heart. The entire nation cried for thirty days when he passed away.
Miriam was teacher to half of the Jewish nation. She taught the women.
She was a great prophet. While still a child, she had a vision that her mother would give birth to the Redeemer.
Pharaoh condemned every Jewish baby boy to death. Amram, leader of the generation, decided that the Jewish people were not going to give to Pharaoh any more children to murder. He divorced his wife and everyone else did the same.
Miriam was six years old at the time. She approached her father and made the observation that his decree was harder on the Jewish people than Pharaoh's. Pharaoh just affected the boys while he was affecting both boys and girls. Also, Pharaoh merely took away an opportunity for extra life in this world. Since the children would at least be born, they would earn an eternal existence for even their momentary life. However, were family life to cease, then all future generations would lose their opportunity to obtain the afterlife. Finally, the decree of a Pharaoh can go away as easily as it came. However, Amram is a pious person. As such, G-d Himself will stand behind any decree that he makes.
Amram had no answer.
In all humility and in his greatness, he listened to his six-year-old daughter. Amram re-married Yocheved. Miriam and Aharon danced at the wedding. Soon afterwards they had a son who was "the humblest of all men." (Numbers 12:3)
As an aside, from Miriam's words we are reminded that Judaism recognizes the value of life in this world for even a moment, regardless of its quality and its potential.
All three are credited with contributing to our physical survival in the desert. G-d provided the traveling wellspring of water because of the merit of Miriam. The protective clouds of glory were given in the merit in the merit of Aharon. The manna was given in the merit of Moshe.
Pharaoh was a megalomaniac. He self-installed himself as a god. As proof of his divinity, he saw to it that nobody ever saw him go to the bathroom. This gives new insight into Biblical verses in which G-d commands Moshe to meet Pharaoh early in the morning when Pharaoh would enter the Nile. You see, since the river was also a national god. Pharaoh had to go there every morning to talk shop.
The Jewish people were initially guests of the state. This lasted as long as Joseph and his brothers were alive. As the exile continued, they grew to become a large and visible minority. This is rarely a good situation.
Pharaoh tricked them into slavery. He played on their desire to show that they were good Egyptians. Pharaoh called for a civil workforce to help build up Egypt.
Every tribe but Levi showed up. Levi claimed that the Jewish people needed a protected resource of scholars to maintain their heritage and study about it. Pharaoh accepted the position and Levi was exempt for the remainder of the exile. Since they didn't work, they stopped receiving support from the government. From then on, the enslaved Jewish people shared their meager rations with the tribe of Levi.
Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam were from the tribe of Levi. Thus, the charity of Jewish people openly contributed towards their redemption.
We do the same today by supporting Torah scholars.
The bitterness of the exile came in three stages.
The work was initially constructive and the quotas were fair and realistic.
Then, the tasks became senseless and they became demoralizing exercises of labor. Personnel miss-match to jobs was common. The quotas were raised until they became unrealistic. Resources were withheld. Missed quotas gave Egypt the justification to use terror. Jewish children were killed and their bodies were stuffed into the walls to make up for missing bricks.
The final stage was genocide. Pharaoh's men went after every Jewish baby. Those who were caught were drowned in the Nile River.
Pharaoh's men missed one boy.
We know Pharaoh's daughter as BasY-ah, Hebrew for Daughter Of G-d. She found a baby boy floating down the Nile in a basket. She was there to perform a ritual immersion. There was a secret reason for the immersion. On that day she was converting to Judaism.
She named the boy Moshe, Egyptian for drawing something out of water. Even thought the boy was named Avigdor by his parents, we know him by the name BasY-ah gave him.
BasY-ah was one of nine people who entered the Garden of Eden while still alive.
G-d made it so that Pharaoh himself supported the child and taught him all there is to know about leadership.
There were many other great women in this generation. In fact, the Oral Torah states that we were redeemed from Egypt because of the merit of our righteous women.
Pharaoh's genocide campaign extended to family life. He worked the men so hard that they didn't have the time or energy to return home at night and be with their wives. Instead, they dropped asleep in the fields.
The righteous women refused to give up on the future of the Jewish nation. Toward evening they would pack up a meal, dress themselves up, and treck off to the work field to revive their husbands.
Given the seemingly obvious hand of G-d, it is difficult to understand how Pharaoh was able to remain defiant throughout the ten devastating plagues. He did finally let them go. Yet within the week of burying his first-born son he chased after the Jewish people to bring them back.
Pharaoh was driven by theology, not mere insanity. The existence of the descendents of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and all that they stood for was a threat to his Empire of the spirit.
The Bible openly states that G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart against releasing the people. Pharaoh and his people suffered a lot. Also, this interfered with Pharaoh's ability to make free-will choices.
Pharaoh sought to break the Jewish and enslave them. He succeeded up to a point. Then, G-d used him to teach the Jewish people about Judaism. Thus, Pharaoh deserved to suffer through the lesson.
His nation benefited, were willing accomplices, and fully cooperated in Pharaoh's campaign. Thus, they also deserved to suffer.
There are two approaches to explain how Pharaoh's free-will was compromised. Both are provided by the Ramban.
One is that Pharaoh initially had free-will but G-d completely removed this capability after Pharaoh established on his own a pattern of hardening the heart.
Another approach is that G-d hardened Pharaoh in a manner so that the agony of the plagues did not affect his decisions. Accordingly, G-d actually spoon-fed Pharaoh with an extra capability enable him to make free-will decisions. They caused the catastrophes that he deserved.
The bottom line is that as a consequence of Pharaoh's free-will choice to attempt to destroy Judaism, he afterwards fell into the role of becoming a prop.
Egypt is finished by the Sea of Reeds when G-d splits the sea for the Jewish people and their army drowns.
To me, the decision of the Egyptian forces to continue the chase and enter the sea defies all explanation.
Some people explain the splitting of the sea as a natural event.
>Ah Yes, yes. The water was pushed away and even piled up high but that >was due to severe wind conditions. You know.
Pardon me sir, how strong a wind do you think we would need to make water walls? We would also like several million men, women, and children to walk between the walls without being blown away.
Sir, please speak clearly. Did you say 'survival of the fittest' or did you say 'survival of the fattest'?
Pharaoh is a lone (and wet) survivor with a very bleak political future. According to the Medrash, he heads north and becomes King of Ninveh. G-d gives him long life and he sees the Jewish people thrive in the Holy Land. That's nachas (Yiddish for bliss).
Pharaoh is the penitant King of Ninveh in the story of Yonah (Jonah).
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