Parashas Shemos

The following piece, related to this week’s parashah, is taken from my forthcoming (God willing) translation of the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim.
At the burning bush, Hashem told Moshe to go down to Egypt to lead the Jewish People out of slavery. Moshe asked (Shemos 3:11): “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should take the Children of Israel out of Egypt?” Hashem responded (ibid. 3:12): “For I shall be with you–and this is your sign that I have sent you: When you take the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” The last part of Hashem’s answer seems inscrutable. The Maggid provides a beautiful explanation.
The Maggid builds on a Midrash, which relates that Moshe argued as follows  (Shemos Rabbah 3:5 on Shemos 3:13): “I am destined to become an intermediary between You and them, when You give them the Torah and say to them (Shemos 20:1): ‘I am the Lord your God ….’” The Maggid explains that Moshe originally thought that the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah were independent events. Hence he asked Hashem: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? I am destined to become an intermediary between You and the Jewish People when You give them the Torah. And one agent cannot carry out two missions. So if I go to Pharaoh, who will act as Your intermediary at Sinai?”
Hashem replied: “This is your sign that I have sent you: when you take the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Hashem was telling Moshe that the task of taking the Jews out of Egypt was not a new mission preempting the mission of acting as the intermediary at Sinai. Rather, this task was part of his original mission: The Exodus from Egypt was the first step leading to the Giving of the Torah. Thus, Moshe’s position as the intermediary at Sinai was the very reason he had to lead the Jews out of Egypt.
The Maggid brings out the idea further with an astute analogy. Suppose a workman–a tailor, for example–is doing a job in someone’s house. Obviously the customer will not suddenly ask the workman to run some other errands. If he did, the workman would object: “Am I here to be your errand-boy?” But if the workman is lacking some item that he needs for his work, it makes perfect sense for the customer to give him some money and tell him to go buy the item. Similarly, it was appropriate for Moshe–the man designated to act as the intermediary at Sinai–to take the Jews out of Egypt, for the Exodus was a necessary first step toward the Giving of the Torah. 
PS: This coming Wednesday, 17 Teves, is the Maggid’s 203rd Yahrzeit

David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. Alan Stanton:

    Thank you- That is my D’var Torah sorted out for this Shabbat! I too admire and enjoy the Maggid’s teahching style and look forward to many more visits to this site.

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