At this point in our Exodus narrative, Paroh is warned that the next plague will be locust. The servants of Paroh beg him to let the Jews go so they don’t have to suffer through another plague. Moshe and Aron are brought to Paroh and he begins the negotiations.
Verse 8: “Who and who are going?” asks Paroh – who from the Jews will be part of this expedition. [remember from last week, Moshe originally was asking for only three day hiatus to “serve Hashem”]
And Moshe replies (v.9), “with our youth and with our elderly…with our sons and with our daughters…and with our cattle we will go…”
Paroh says, (v.10) nope, kids can’t go “see there is bad coming toward you” and chases them out.
Again, we have a deeper philosophical argument. Religion is for the adults, says Paroh. You want to limit your food to kosher food, fine. But don’t make the kids nuts about it – let them be kids. And Moshe explains to Paroh that we don’t compartmentalize our religion – -it is a religion for all ages and stages. There is no such a thing as too young or too old to be part of the Jewish concept of connecting to G-d. From the moment a child is born until the time a person dies, our lives are framed by Torah and G-d – we say Shema with the newborn baby and the dying person says Shema with his last breath.
Paroh actually did see in astrology a “blood star” for the future of the Jews. When the Jews did the sin of the Chayt Ha’egel [golden calf], G-d wanted to wipe out the nation and Moshe begged G-d to forgive them. One of Moshe’s arguments is that if G-d annihilates the Jews, it would be seemingly concurring with Paroh’s prophetic statement.
Since Paroh is not budging, the plague of locust begins and the locust munch on all the green they can find, stripping Egypt of any growing plant. Paroh begs for the locust to be gone, and Moshe prays for the removal of the locust and all disappear, not even one little one is left behind. Paroh goes back to business as usual.
The next plague starts: it is darkness, but so thick folks couldn’t get up. This plague was a punishment for the Egyptians, but also an opportunity for the Jews. In this plague, those Jews who didn’t want to leave were killed out without the Egyptians witnessing the punishment of these Jews. Four out of every five Jews did not want to leave and were killed during this time. (Ever wonder if you will be the one out of five spiritually alive enough to want to leave America’s materialism behind when the time comes? Don’t get too attached to it that it becomes so integral to you that it shackles you to destruction!)
Chapter 10, verse 23 says “They did not see each other, and none of them could rise from his place”
Chiddushei Harim teaches, based on this verse, that when folks don’t see each other, they don’t raise themselves in growth.
Paroh at this point relents a bit further and says – okay, go serve G-d with your children. Fine, have religion for kids. But don’t take your wealth. Keep your religion in your homes and don’t bring it into the workplace. Don’t bring it into your investment strategies. Don’t pour huge amounts of money into Shabbos and Yom Tov and Mitzva needs. Don’t figure in morality with business strategy. And Moshe’s response is: not only must Jews use their resources for G-d, you, Paroh, should be contributing and giving us Egyptian wealth to use for G-d and we won’t leave behind even one little hoof – all of our possessions will be used for G-d’s service.
Verse 26: “for we won’t know what we will need to serve G-d until we get there.” You never know what you will need of what you build up of your talents and wealth – have to protect it and work on it, because we might need it to serve G-d. Any bit of your wealth, any bit of your talents, all that can and will be used in a G-d-centered life.
Paroh now is in a rage and says, get out of here, don’t see my face anymore, because if you try, I’ll kill you. He cannot tolerate allowing Jews, with all their members, with all their possessions to be G-d centered. Nothing enrages the hedonist and anti-semite more than complete spirituality. Therefore, there is no better revenge upon them than to dedicate our lives, our families and every red cent we have to doing the right thing.