While the Jewish nation began with such illustrious figures as the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, the Jews in Egypt began a spiritual descent after the passing of Jacob’s children. In the beginning of this week’s Torah Portion, G-d instructs Moses to approach the Jews and tell them that they will soon be redeemed from slavery, experience the revelation at Mt. Sinai, and then settle in the Land of Israel. Broken in spirit amidst the back-breaking work, the Jews were unable to absorb the message.
Moses is then instructed to deliver the same message to Pharaoh, to which he responds, “If the children of Israel didn’t listen, how will Pharaoh listen?” The commentators find this perplexing, since the Torah clearly explains the reason why the Jews were unreceptive to the message. Why did Moses expect them to be more receptive than Pharaoh, who was living in majestic luxury?
The answer is that Moses understood the nature of the Jewish People. Even if they have sunken to what appears to be the absolute depths, devoid of any speck of Judaism and spirituality, there’s a spark of the Divine that never departs. That spark is an inheritance from the founders of the Jewish people who gave birth to every Jew enslaved in Egypt — and every Jew today. Moses expected the Jews to be the most receptive to G-d’s message of freedom because no amount of hard labor, broken spirit, or assimilation into foreign cultures can remove that glowing ember of spirituality (taken from Taam V’Daas). This is also the hope of all those who are involved in Jewish education today, including Project Genesis-Torah.org – to kindle that deep seated spark and give every Jew a Jewish future.
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org