The term “revolution” brings to mind firebrand leaders uniting the quashed masses to reclaim their rights from the hands of those who clung to feudal privileges, always beginning with an ideology but concluding with brutality. Whether the revolt took the form of storming the Bastille and the Tuileries Palace in the 1790s, or by the less-dramatic, more political means of the Bolsheviks in the 1910s, those who used their voices to legitimately holler for bread eventually used their heels to crush the skulls of their adversaries (and their guiltless families) who laid defenseless in the dust. Whilst family Antoinette was viciously slaughtered by the infamous guillotine in the streets of Paris in front of roaring crowds, and the Romanovs were executed mercilessly in a quiet basement in the Siberian capitol of Tabolsk, the Jewish revolutionaries treated Family Pharaoh in a truly remarkable way.

The picture drawn by the Midrash of how the Jewish nation was oppressed by their Egyptian rulers is that of a generations-long holocaust. For 210 years, children where indiscriminately snatched from their mothers to be bricked into walls, whilst others where slaughtered—their blood used to fulfill the bathing whims of Pharaoh. Men and women suffered incessant beatings and worked under the most treacherous conditions, forced to laboriously build cities on quicksand, all in order to cynically rob their constructors of even the most basic feelings of satisfaction.

And then suddenly, from the distant plains of Midyan Moshe appeared, sent by Hashem to reverse their fortune in any array of the most impressive miracles man has ever witnessed. With the water supply turned to blood and frogs in every possible location, even the most stubbornly atheistic Egyptian soon began to appreciate that Hashem’s agenda for releasing His nation with “a strong hand and an outstretched arm” was evidently underway. Slavery abruptly ended and the downtrodden and molested nation soon became respected and feared. A revolution indeed! Yet, with Moshe clearly on the offensive, we would have expected him to offer his newly emancipated followers the freedom to express their liberty in an unlimited fashion, and yet surprisingly this was not at all so. “Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aaron and said, “Go—bring offerings to your G-d in the land.” Moshe said, “It is not proper to do so, for we will offer the deity of Egypt to Hashem, our G-d—behold if we were to slaughter the deity of Egypt in their sight, will they not stone us? We will go a three-day journey in the Wilderness, and bring offerings to Hashem, our G-d as He will tell us” (Shemos 8:21-23). Considering the extent the Jews had been bullied all these years, why would Moshe worry about upsetting the sensitivities of the enemy? Wasn’t slaughtering sheep in service of Hashem their legitimate right that outweighed the fact that it happened to be an Egyptian deity? Furthermore, doesn’t Moshe’s security concerns seem a little “sheepish” when clearly the Jewish nation was under Hashem’s mighty protection?

The Chasam Sofer explains that Moshe was instructed to order the Jews to bring their sacrifices outside of Egypt not because they were threatened in any way, but rather because Hashem did not want them to flex their newly found muscle against their hosting nation unnecessarily. Yes, after generations of being a victim their shackles had been removed, but nevertheless they had no right to now become the aggressor, however tempting that may have been. Liberty was restored by Hashem to free them from slavery and to give them opportunity to claim fair compensation, not for rubbing the noses of their enemies to the ground by slaughtering their faith system in front of their very eyes. Certainly every act of evil deserves retribution and the Egyptians had a large account to settle, but with Hashem dealing with that, any trampling by the Jews on their former antagonists’ values would have been an unethical and needlessly vengeful response.

Power is a mighty tool, and when used correctly can build edifices of achievement. When used incorrectly, it unleashes the dormant malice that lies deep inside every man. A lofty position in society, a bulging portfolio or stripes on the arm must be used carefully to improve the lives of those around us, not as a means to snobbishly trample those that are less-fortunate. If our assets and strengths were used exclusively to build and improve society, a quiet but unstoppable revolution would be underway, capable of storming even the lofty gates of heaven!

Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Sipper is a close friend of Further divrei Torah from the Rov can be found on his yeshiva's website at .

Add comment

Have something to say?
Please make your comment below!
All comments are reviewed prior to publication. Absolutely NO loshon hara or anything derogatory or hurtful to anyone will be permitted on the website.

Security code