Category Archives: Pharaoh

Calling God’s Bluff (Bo)

Calling God’s Bluff (Bo)

It is sometimes necessary to lie damnably in the interests of the nation. -Hilaire Belloc

There is a common misconception about what Moses requested from Pharaoh. We’ve heard the popular “Let my people go” refrain, implying that Moses was asking for complete freedom from slavery and permanent departure from Egypt. That is not accurate. Though freedom was the final intention, what Moses repeatedly asks from Pharaoh is much more limited and specific. He asks that Pharaoh let the people go on a three-day journey into the desert where they will worship God and celebrate.

At some point in the discussions, Pharaoh gives in and says, “ok, you can go to the desert to worship your God,” but he asks, “who is going?” Moses answers: “Everyone, men, women, elderly, and children.” Pharaoh’s response is “no way. Just the men can go.”

The Bechor Shor on Exodus 10:10 wonders as to what’s going on. Why does Pharaoh care who goes to worship? He answers that Pharaoh saw through Moses’ façade. He understood that they didn’t intend to just “worship”, but rather that they planned to completely escape. That’s why Pharaoh stubbornly refuses. In one sense he’s calling Moses’ bluff. “You want to go worship? Fine. You’re free to go, but you need to leave your women and children behind until you return.” Moses couldn’t accept the offer which is why he doubles down and insists that everybody needs to go.

Having God on his side didn’t hurt Moses either, so when subsequent plagues strike Egypt culminating in the devastating Death of the Firstborns, not only does Pharaoh finally agree to Moses’ terms, but he and the Egyptian people can’t get them out fast enough. The entire Jewish people are freed to go on the three-day journey to the desert to worship God. Only after that does Moses activate the next step of the plan, to take the Jewish people out of the Egyptian empire entirely.

May we see clearly through the facades in front of us.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Eitan Orbach and Tzivya Graff on their marriage. Mazal Tov!

Magic versus Miracles (Vaera)

Magic versus Miracles (Vaera)

For the truly faithful, no miracle is necessary. For those who doubt, no miracle is sufficient. -Nancy Gibbs

God sends Moses to free the Jewish people from bondage. Moses demands from Pharaoh to allow the Jewish slaves time off to go to the desert to serve God. Pharaoh condescendingly declines. Then ensues a macabre back-and-forth between Moses and Pharaoh, interspersed by the famous Ten Plagues. Moses keeps asking for the people to be freed. Pharaoh declines. A plague hits. However, we also see Pharaoh’s reactions evolve, from outright denial to conditional and grudging agreement on which he immediately reneges once the particular plague has passed.

The first and perhaps most famous plague is the plague of blood. Aaron, Moses’ brother and co-conspirator, uses Moses’ staff and strikes the water of the Nile River. All the water turns to blood. The life source of Egypt has now turned to a source of death. All the fish in the Nile die, polluting the river and making the water undrinkable.

Curiously, we are told by the Torah that Pharaoh’s sorcerers are somehow able to replicate this feat, turning water into blood as well. This capacity leads Pharaoh to believe that Moses and Aaron’s plague of blood was not of divine nature, but rather some magical ability. He refuses to free the Jewish people.

A common question that is asked about the event is that if Aaron turned all the water to blood, what water did Pharaoh’s sorcerers convert to blood? especially, given the tradition that all of the water in Egypt turned to blood, not just that of the Nile.

The Bechor Shor on Exodus 8:20 explains that the plague of blood lasted for just a short while. However, that short while was enough to kill all of the fish in the Nile and contaminate the water for an extended period, making it undrinkable. Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to use their sorcery on the contaminated but no-longer-blood water of the Nile, transforming it again into blood. Pharaoh sees his sorcerers replicate Moses’ and Aaron’s miracle before the full extent of the plague is felt. That, combined with his sorcerers’ ability to mimic the miracle, underwhelms Pharaoh and he duly declines the request to free the Jewish slaves.

The Torah tells us that Pharaoh continues to “harden his heart” in the face of the progressive plagues and miracles, rejecting God as well as denying the Jewish people their freedom. Eventually, he and the Egyptian nation pay severely for their lack of faith and compassion.

May we appreciate the daily blessings and miracles that fill our lives.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the peaceful transfer of government power. Not to be taken for granted.

The Grandeur of the Oppressor (Miketz)

The Grandeur of the Oppressor (Miketz)

An empire is an immense egotism. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pharaoh has a disturbing dream. He brings Joseph, a young, incarcerated Jewish slave to interpret the dream. Joseph conveys that the dream is a prophecy of seven years of plenty that will be quickly followed by seven years of famine. Joseph councils for Pharaoh to save grain from the years of plenty in preparation for what he predicts will be a devastating period of famine. Pharaoh is impressed and puts Joseph in charge of the entire project and elevates him to Viceroy of the Egyptian empire.

Joseph fills Egypt’s storehouses during the years of plenty and its treasury during the years of famine. Because of Joseph’s warning and preparation, Egypt was the only country in the entire region that was ready when famine struck. It made the wealthy and powerful Egypt even wealthier and more powerful. All the peoples of the region flocked to Egypt for grain. At this point, Egypt was reputed to have received the wealth of the entire world.

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 41:1 gives an eerie explanation for why Egypt becomes the undisputed superpower of its time. He states that God, knowing that Egypt would eventually subjugate and enslave the Jewish people, wanted to raise Egypt’s prospects even further. God wanted Egypt to become the most powerful nation in the world before it enslaved the Jews. The reason is that God only wants the Jews subjugated by a powerful nation as opposed to a more lowly one. The Bechor Shor explains that not only was this true with Egypt, but with each subjugator of the Jewish people. God raises the fortunes of whatever empire or nation are about to subdue the Jews and we have seen this throughout our history. The fortunes of empire peak at the same time as the subjugation of the Jews starts. God doesn’t want to give the Jewish people into the hands of a lowly nation, but rather to one at the height of its power.

However, it has also proven true that while a nation may be at the height of its power when the subjugation starts, invariably, a nation that oppresses and persecutes its Jewish population, no matter how powerful, is eventually relegated to the dustbin of history.

May we be wary of nations at the height of their power.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanuka Sameach,



To vaccination. May it ever be safe and effective.

Self-inflicted Escalating Punishments (Bo)

Self-inflicted Escalating Punishments

Every guilty person is his own hangman. -Seneca the Elder

                                                                     John Martin, The Seventh Plague, 1823

God pours his wrath over the people of Egypt. Plagues of blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, boils, hail, locust and more devastate the mightiest empire on the planet for refusing to let the People of Israel go. Pharaoh stands firm against this onslaught, consistently denying the Hebrew nation its freedom. He insists on keeping them enslaved, not allowing them their requested three-day journey to worship God.

In the end, it is Pharaoh’s stubbornness (which at some point may have been augmented by God) that dooms Egypt. Had he let the Jews go at the first request, he and his country would have been spared from all the pain, death and destruction.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 12:33 (Bo) explains that Pharaoh’s thick-headedness, his denial of God and his refusal to send the Jews as requested were reciprocated in the harshest terms in a way that he would irrefutably acknowledge God, by being on the receiving end of the plagues, and he would ultimately be forced to send the Jews out of Egypt.

Rabbeinu Bechaye gives an example of a minister who asked his servant to buy him some fish; the servant went and bought him a putrid piece of fish. The minister, as punishment, gives the servant three options:  “eat the fish yourself, get one hundred lashes, or pay one hundred pieces.” The servant says: “I’ll eat the fish,” but halfway through it he says, “I can’t eat anymore, I’d rather get the lashes.” They lash him, but halfway through he says, “I can’t handle it, I’d rather pay the one hundred pieces.” The servant ended up inflicting on himself all three punishments.

So to it was with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They were lashed with all the plagues, they sent the Jews out, and they also sent them with gold and riches.

May today’s stubborn enemies of Israel receive their comeuppance speedily and in our days.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Judge Mchaim Lieberman on his 50th birthday. May he continue to mete out justice when he can.

The Source Material of Dreams

The Source Material of Dreams

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal. -Pamela Vaull Starr

Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, has a disturbing dream. Seven sickly bone-thin cows consume seven healthy large cows; seven sickly shriveled wheat stalks absorb seven healthy robust wheat stalks. Pharaoh is shaken by the vision and knows it portends some danger to the Egyptian empire. After his advisors and wise men fail to interpret the dream to his satisfaction, the young Hebrew slave, Joseph, imprisoned in the royal dungeon is remembered and brought to Pharaoh to try his luck at interpreting what no one else could. Joseph does it, predicts seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, is elevated and thereby saves himself, all of Egypt and eventually his family, who join him in Egypt once the prophesized famine hits the region.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 41:1 (Miketz) explains the components that make up a person’s dreams and what elements of them are prophetic.

There are three inputs to our dreams: food; thoughts; and what he calls “strengthening of the soul.”

Food causes “fumes” to go to the brain. Dreams that come as a result of what we ate are nonsense. Our thoughts during the day, will lead to dreaming of those matters at night. Those dreams hold no significant importance.

However, the third element of a dream comes from the “strengthening of the soul,” and according to Rabbeinu Bechaye entails a minor prophecy. The dream’s source is the soul and is independent of anything we might have thought about previously. It comes from the power of our imagination to picture matters that the soul senses while awake. Our imagination then illustrates these visions to our mind in our dream-state when we are free of the noise, inputs, stimuli and distractions of our waking hours. These visions are true when the person’s imaginative powers are strong and he hasn’t thought about the vision previously.

This is similar to the minor prophecy that the sages attribute to children and fools, as they don’t have the same mental filters rational adults have developed for such prophetic messages.

He adds that both the righteous as well as the wicked can receive such prophetic dreams. In Pharaoh’s case, God specifically sent the prophetic dream to him, to set in motion the release and elevation of Joseph.

May we strengthen our own souls and dream prophetic dreams.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanuka Sameach,



To the Jewish community of Atlanta. I had the privilege to enjoy your southern hospitality in a time of need.

La prima del Faraón

ficción bíblica: Éxodo Bo

Traducido del inglés y editado por Caro Cynovich

La prima del Faraón

Lo odio, Pirit pensó mientras yacía en la cama. Nos va a destruir.

Pirit daba vueltas. No había ninguna posibilidad de que pudiera relajarse. Ella temía la oscuridad no cesaría, al igual que sucedió con la última plaga. Aún se encontraba traumatizada por aquella eterna y paralizante noche. Solía maldecir al sol por ser impredecible, pero ahora oraba por su regreso.

El primo Faraón condenó Egipto, Pirit reflexionaba. Y Moisés siempre cumplió con su palabra.

“Los primogénitos morirán”, dijo Moisés con su voz profunda y autoritaria. Al recibir ese anuncio sintió un gran escalofrío como si su primogénito, Rabret, hubiese muerto en el acto.

Oh, dulce Rabret, Pirit gimió para sus adentros. Solo tiene quince años. Recién entrando en la adultez. Pequeñas lágrimas corrieron por el rostro de Pirit ante la idea de perderlo.

Hubo un silencio tenso durante toda la noche en Egipto, como si todo el país estuviera expectante conteniendo la respiración. La última declaración de Moisés se habían expandido como la pólvora. La décima plaga promete ser la peor; afectaría a todos los hogares. Tanto los pobres como los ricos sufrirán. La mente de Pirit se revolvía inquieta. Tan solo aquellos que no tienen hijos se ahorrarán el dolor de perder uno.

¡Aún así el Faraón se rehúsa a dejar ir a los israelitas! Pirit gritó en su cabeza. ¡Está loco! Pero, ¿qué podemos hacer?

Entonces empezó. Pirit escuchó un suave gemido desde lejos. Se quedó en la cama intentando ignorarlo con la esperanza de que se iría. Entonces el gemido se hizo más fuerte – y más cercano. En realidad no era un gemido, era un grito de amargura, dolor y angustia. Se iba intensificando y haciéndose más fuerte. Pirit pensó que el grito era parecía un ser vivo, creciendo en fuerza, forma y poder. Antes de darse cuenta, el grito se volvió abrumador. Estaba en todas partes. Parecía como si cada punto de la tela que era Egipto estuviera desgarrándose de dolor. Pirit no pudo contenerse por más tiempo.

Aflojó sus ojos cerrados y se levantó de su cama. Se acercó, como si fuera a su propia ejecución, a la habitación de Rabret. La habitación estaba anormalmente tranquila en medio de los gritos comunales de Egipto. Tal vez solo está durmiendo pacíficamente, Pirit oró. Pero no había ningún movimiento. No se escuchaba ninguna respiración. Ningún suave subir y bajar del cuerpo de su hijo. Ningún signo externo de vida. Muy suavemente, Pirit tocó el hombro de Rabret. Hacía frío en medio de la cálida noche egipcia.

—Rabret —Pirit lo sacudió—. Por favor, despierta, mi amor.

Pero no hubo respuesta. Perdiendo toda esperanza, Pirit tiró del hombro de Rabret para ver su rostro.

Dio un paso atrás, tomándose la cara con las manos, mientras chorros de lágrimas gruesas rodaban por sus mejillas. El rostro de Rabret estaba congelado, muerto, en una mueca de dolor. La única forma de interpretarlo era que su vida había sido interrumpida con urgencia, fuerza y ​​con violencia. Él ahora era una cáscara vacía.

Pirit volvió corriendo a abrazar a su hijo sin vida. Su primogénito. Su Rabret .

—¡No! No mi dulce Rabret. ¡Oh, no!

Comenzó a llorar. Un llanto desconsolado que se unió a las voces del resto de Egipto en una sinfonía discordante de dolor.


Esta locura ha ido lo suficientemente lejos. No me importa si esto es traición o blasfemia, Pirit pensó mientras daba grandes pasos en su camino hacia el palacio de su primo. No estaba sola. Otros nobles, miembros de la realeza y asesores se dirigían, con los ojos llorosos, a la sala de audiencias del Faraón.

—Mi hijo. Mi heredero —Faraón estaba murmurando, sosteniendo el cetro del príncipe en sus manos.

Faraón estaba sentado, encorvado en su trono, rodeado de una creciente audiencia enfurecida. Pirit abrió paso entre el grupo y, sin previo aviso o introducción, se dirigió a Faraón.

—¿Cuántos niños más necesitamos sacrificar? —Pirit declaró—. ¿Cuántos más?

—¿Qué podemos hacer ? —Faraón le preguntó a nadie en particular.

—¡Deja ir a los israelitas! —Pirit gritó.

—Eso es lo que quieren —dijo Faraón débilmente, sin dejar de mirar el cetro del muchacho—. Pero es demasiado tarde ahora. Todo está perdido.

Pirit acercó al trono, sin haber sido invitada, bajo los gritos ahogados de asombro de los presentes.

—Primo —Pirit se dirigió al Faraón—. Todo se perderá si no haces nada. Déjalos ir, como deberías haber hecho hace tiempo. ¿Cuánto más debe pagar Egipto por su esclavitud? ¿Quién sabe lo que nos deparará la próxima plaga? Por favor, primo, por el bien de mis otros hijos, de sus otros hijos – por lo que aún queda de Egipto. Debes dejarlos en libertad – ahora. ¡Escucha los gritos! ¡Son cada vez más fuertes!

—Me siento como una marioneta en las manos del Dios hebreo —el Faraón comenzó apretando los dientes— Cada vez que he pensado en liberarlos siento un impulso de mantenerlos esclavizados.

—Entonces por Ra. No, no por Ra —Pirit miró a la gran estatua de su dios, sus labios rizados en una mueca—. Por el dios hebreo, que ha demostrado ser todopoderoso y ha reducido a Ra a una escultura sin sentido. ¡Juro por el dios hebreo! —Pirit se arrodilló y agarró firmemente ambos tobillos del Faraón, en medio de las exclamaciones de la audiencia—. No te dejaré ir hasta que liberes a los israelitas.

Faraón miró a su prima, de repente consciente de su audacia y atrevimiento en violar las reglas respecto a una persona santa como él. Reconoció el gesto antiguo que estaba llevando a cabo Pirit. No dejar ir al proveedor era el pedido físico de un suplicante hasta que su deseo fuera concedido, o hasta que lo mataran por su conducta inapropiada.

Un murmullo comenzó en la sala de audiencias con el telón de fondo de los lamentos cada vez más fuerte.

—Pirit tiene razón —el Faraón escuchó—. Tiene que dejar ir a los hebreos.

Otra voz añadió:  —Estamos perdidos.

—Faraón nos ha condenado.

—¿Qué podemos hacer?

—Tiene que dejar ir a los hebreos.

—Deja ir a los hebreos.

—Sí. Déjalos ir

—¡Deja ir a los hebreos! —dijo alguien como un canto, como un lamento.

—Deja ir a los hebreos —el canto fue acogido.

—¡Deja ir a los hebreos! —dijo el cuarto entero.

—¡Deja ir a los hebreos! —resonó por todo el palacio .


Faraón salió corriendo de sus aposentos con el cetro del Príncipe todavía en la mano, seguido por una extensa comitiva encabezada por Pirit.

Faraón se dirigió hacia el barrio hebreo de su ciudad. Caminó tambaleándose, buscando de puerta en puerta de entrada para detectar signos de la casa de Moisés o Aarón.

—¿Dónde está Moisés? —clamó el Faraón—. ¿Dónde está Aarón?

Pero no hubo respuesta.

—Hebreos —Faraón llamó—. ¡Por favor, ayúdenme! ¿Dónde están Moisés y Aarón?

Sin aliento, apoyado en el marco de la puerta de un hogar hebreo, el Faraón se sorprendió al sentir una sustancia pegajosa en las manos. Se miró las manos. Para su horror, estaba llena de sangre.

—¡Moisés! ¡Aarón! —Faraón gritó por encima del zumbido de los lamentos, que era notoriamente más tranquilo en el barrio hebreo.

—¡Lo siento! ¡Yo estaba equivocado! —continuó Faraón—. ¡Tú y tu gente pueden irse! ¡Por favor! ¡Vayan!

—Estoy aquí, Faraón —Moisés apareció en una de las puertas. Aarón estaba a su lado y que fueron seguidos por otros ancianos hebreos.

—Oh Moisés —el Faraón se puso de rodillas. El resto de la comitiva siguió su ejemplo—.Vayan, vayan. ¡Por favor! Me equivoqué. Vayan. Tomen todo lo que quieran tomar. Las mujeres, los niños, los animales – todos los animales. Tomen todos y salgan rápidamente. Ahora. Por favor, vayan. Vayan antes que nos destruyan a todos.

Moisés dirigió a los ancianos hebreos y les indicó que sigan adelante y den la palabra de partir. Todos ellos estaban vestidos para el viaje, llevando mochilas y bolsas totalmente cargadas, como si hubieran estado esperando el momento de ser liberados.

Sin decir una palabra, Moisés se volvió para irse.

—Moisés, mi Señor —Pirit rogó—. ¿Es este el final? ¿Será este fin a las muertes y a la destrucción en Egipto?

Moisés miró Pirit con cara triste y solemne.

—Eso dependerá de ustedes —los señaló a todos—, de ustedes y la voluntad del Faraón —lo señaló.

Pirit se estremeció. Si depende de nosotros y del Faraón, entonces realmente estamos condenados.

Y sin decir nada más, Moisés dio la espalda a los egipcios para nunca más volver a ver su lugar de nacimiento, la tierra de los opresores de los hebreos.

Responsabilidades del Conocimiento

Netziv Genesis: Miketz

Responsabilidades del Conocimiento

“Conocimiento llega por los ojos siempre abiertos y las manos trabajando; y no hay ningún conocimiento que no es potencia.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

En nuestra era de la sobrecarga de información, hay ciertos conocimientos que a veces somos los únicos que estámos al tanto de ellos. Generalmente es en el ámbito personal. Un amigo comparte un secreto. Un miembro de la familia nos dice noticias primero. En otras ocasiones no es necesariamente información transmitida, sino una visión que es alcanzada. Finalmente usted entiende por qué un compañero de trabajo se comporta de cierta manera. Viste a tu prójimo actuando diferente. Eres testigo a algo que nadie prestó atención.

La cuestión teológica es ¿por qué somos los que poseen este conocimiento único y ¿qué vamos a hacer con él?

Faraón sueña un sueño que profetiza el destino del imperio egipcio. El Netziv en Génesis 41:39 explica que Dios provee información única específicamente a aquellos que pueden y deben hacer algo al respecto. Faraón tenía que recibir la visión del futuro de Egipto, porque era el único que tenía el poder y la responsabilidad de actuar sobre esa información.

Cuando se nos da información exclusiva, es porque tenemos que saber y tenemos que actuar. A veces, el acto puede ser guardar silencio, pero muestran cierta empatía. A veces puede ser dar una ayuda de una manera discreta. A veces puede ser despertar al mundo entero a una causa.

Que podamos utilizar nuestros conocimientos especiales en la forma correcta.

Shabat Shalom y Janucá Sameaj,


Para el embajador de Alemania en Uruguay, Dr. Heinz Peters, por el generoso apoyo de su embajada a la Biblioteca de la Memoria del Holocausto de la comunidad judía.


Need-To-Know Guidance

[First posted on The Times of Israel at:]

Netziv Genesis: Miketz

Need-To-Know Guidance

“Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

In our age of information overload, there is certain knowledge that at times we are the only ones that are privy to it. It is usually in the personal realm. A friend shares a secret. A family member tells us news first. At other times it is not necessarily information conveyed, but an insight that is reached. You finally understand why a coworker behaves a certain way. You notice your neighbor acting differently. You witness something that no one else paid attention to.

The theological question is why are we the ones to possess this unique knowledge and what are we to do with it?

Pharaoh dreams a dream that prophesies the fate of the Egyptian empire. The Netziv on Genesis 41:39 explains that God provides unique information specifically to those that can and should do something about it. Pharaoh needed to be given the vision of Egypt’s future because he was the only one who had the power and the responsibility to act upon that information.

When we are given exclusive information, it is because we need to know and we need to act. Sometimes the act may be to keep quiet, but show some empathy. Sometimes it may be to give a helping hand in a discreet way. Sometimes it may be to rouse the entire world to a cause.

May we use our special insights in the proper fashion.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach,



To the German Ambassador to Uruguay, Dr. Heinz Peters, for his embassy’s unique, quiet but generous support of the Jewish community’s Holocaust Remembrance Library.



Call of the Wild

[First posted on The Times of Israel:]

Ibn Ezra Exodus: Vaera

 Call of the Wild

 “Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.” -Lorraine Anderson

Pharaoh has a slave rebellion brewing. A discredited former prince of Egypt has taken up their cause. He is imposing and impressive, and though Pharaoh suspects Moses is resorting to cheap magic tricks, there is something threatening, even frightening about the tall Hebrew leader.

Pharaoh wants a break. But he is behind schedule and over budget on his grand construction projects. The priesthood has been snickering behind his back about his poor leadership and even questioning his divinity.

All Pharaoh wants to do is get out of the palace. He wants to breathe some fresh air and cool his heels in the soothing water of the Nile.

Ibn Ezra (on Exodus 8:16) claims that it was the custom of monarchs to go out to the river every morning. It is good for the eyes, Ibn Ezra explains. Imagine how flummoxed Pharaoh must have been to be greeted by Moses on his lone foray into the tranquility of nature.

May we remember the nature that we have access to, and likewise drink in its healthy and reviving effects (without rebel leaders interrupting our sojourn).

Shabbat Shalom,



To the snow! We’ve been blessed with a good six inches of beautiful, white, fluffy, snow-ball throwing, snow-man building, pristine snow! Followed by blue skies!

Pharaoh’s Cousin

Exodus: Bo

Pharaoh’s Cousin

I hate him, Pirit thought as she lay in bed. He will destroy us all.

Pirit tossed and turned. There was no possibility she could relax. She feared the darkness would not lift, like in the last plague. She was still traumatized by that paralyzing endless night. She would forever curse the unreliable sun, yet pray for its return.

Cousin Pharaoh has doomed Egypt, Pirit fitfully mused. And Moses has ever delivered on his word.

“The firstborns shall die”, Moses had said in his deep and authoritative voice. The chill she had received from the announcement had struck her as if her firstborn, Rabret, had been executed on the spot.

Oh, sweet Rabret, Pirit moaned to herself. Only fifteen years old. Just now entering manhood. Small tears streamed down Pirit’s face at the thought of losing him.

There was a tense quiet throughout the Egyptian night, as if the entire country was expectantly holding its breath. Word had spread like wildfire of Moses’ latest declaration. This tenth plague promised to be the worst by far and to touch every home – how could it not? Poor and wealthy alike would suffer. Pirit’s mind churned restlessly. Only the childless would be spared the pain of losing a child they never had.

Yet Pharaoh still refuses to let the Israelites go! Pirit screamed in her head. He is mad! But what can we do?

Then it started. Pirit heard a soft moaning from far away. She stayed in bed trying to ignore it – hoping it would go away. Then the moaning got louder – and closer. But it was not really a moan. It was a cry – a cry of bitterness, and sorrow, and anguish. And the cry multiplied and got louder. Pirit thought it was like a living thing, the cry. Growing in strength and form and power. Before she knew it, the cry was overwhelming. It was all around her. It seemed as if every stitch of the Egyptian fabric was crying in excruciating pain. She could not hold back longer.

Pirit unclenched her tightly closed eyes and rose from her bed. She walked, as if to her own execution, to Rabret’s room. The room was abnormally quiet amidst the communal screaming of Egypt. Perhaps he is just sleeping peacefully, Pirit prayed. But there was no movement. No breathing sounds. No gentle rising and falling of his young chest. No outward sign of life. Very gently, Pirit touched Rabret’s shoulder. It was cold in the warm Egyptian night.

“Rabret,” Pirit shook him. “Please wake up my darling.”

But there was no answer. Losing hope Pirit pulled on Rabret’s shoulder to see his face.

She stepped back, holding her hands to her face, with a thick stream of hot tears rolling down her cheeks. Rabret’s face was a frozen, dead, grimace of pain. The only way to interpret it is that his life had been cut short urgently, powerfully and violently. He was an empty husk now.

Pirit rushed back to embrace her lifeless son. Her firstborn. Her Rabret. “Oh no. Not my sweet Rabret. Oh, no.” And then Pirit started to wail. A keen, piercing, heartbroken cry that joined the voices of the rest of Egypt in a discordant symphony of pain.

* * *

This madness has gone on far enough. I do not care if it is treason or blasphemy, Pirit thought as she stomped her way to her cousin’s palace. She was not alone. Other nobles, royals and advisors were making their way, teary-eyed to Pharaoh’s audience chamber.

“My son. My heir,” Pharaoh was murmuring, holding the Prince’s scepter loosely in his hand.

Pharaoh was sitting, bent over on his throne, surrounded by a growing, unmoving audience. Pirit pushed through the group and without announcement or introduction, addressed Pharaoh.

“How many more children do we need to sacrifice?” Pirit demanded. “How many more!?”

“What can we do?” Pharaoh asked no one in particular.

“Let the Israelites go!” Pirit shouted.

“That is what they want,” Pharaoh said weakly, still looking at the boy’s scepter. “But it is too late now. All is lost.”

Pirit approached the throne, uninvited, to the quiet gasps of those around.

“Cousin,” Pirit addressed Pharaoh. “All will be lost if you do nothing. Let them go as you should have done long ago. How much more must Egypt pay for their enslavement? Who knows what the next plague will bring? Please cousin, for the sake of my other children, your other children – for what still remains of Egypt. You must release them – now. Listen to the screams! They are getting louder!!”

“I feel like a puppet in the Hebrew god’s hands,” Pharaoh started clenching his teeth. “Every time I have thought to release them I feel a compulsion to keep them enslaved.”

“Then by Ra. No, not Ra,” Pirit looked at the large statue of the god, her lip curling in a sneer, “by the Hebrew god, who has proven himself to be all powerful and has reduced Ra to a meaningless sculpture – I swear by the Hebrew god,” Pirit knelt down and grasped firmly on to both of Pharaoh’s ankles, amidst further gasps of the audience, “I shall not leave you until you go and free the Israelites.”

Pharaoh looked down at his cousin, shocked into awareness by her bold and daring violation of his holy person. He recognized Pirit’s ancient gesture. It was the physical vow of a supplicant, not to let go of the provider, until their wish was granted, or they were killed for the mere impropriety.

However, a murmur started in the audience chamber, with the backdrop of the wailing growing stronger. “Pirit is right,” Pharaoh heard. “He must let the Hebrews go.” Another voice added. “We are lost.”

“Pharaoh has doomed us.”

“What can we do?”

“He must let the Hebrews go.”

“Let the Hebrews go.”

‘Yes. Let the Hebrews go.”

“Let the Hebrews go,” someone said as a chant, with a wailing counterpoint.

“Let the Hebrews go,” the chant was picked up.

“Let the Hebrews go,” the entire room said.

“Let the Hebrews go!” reverberated throughout the palace.

* * *

Pharaoh ran out of his palace, the Prince’s scepter still in hand, followed by a large entourage led by Pirit.

Pharaoh walked unsteadily, looking from doorway to doorway for signs of the home of Moses or Aaron. They were in the Hebrew quarter of his city, where he knew Moses and Aaron had taken up temporary residence.

“Where is Moses?” Pharaoh cried. “Where is Aaron?”

But there was no answer.

“Hebrews!” Pharaoh called out. “Please help me! Where are Moses and Aaron!?”

Out of breath, leaning on the doorframe of a Hebrew home, Pharaoh was surprised to feel a sticky substance on his hands. He looked at his hands. To his horror, they were full of blood.

“Moses! Aaron!” Pharaoh screamed, above the sound of the general wailing, which was noticeably quieter in the Hebrew quarter.

“I am sorry! I was wrong!” Pharaoh continued. “You and your people may go! Please! Go!”

“I am here Pharaoh,” Moses appeared in one of the doorways. Aaron was beside him and they were followed by other Hebrew elders.

“Oh Moses,” Pharaoh got down on his knees. The rest of the entourage followed suit. “Go, go. Please!

“I was wrong. Go. Take everyone that you wanted to take. Women, children, animals – all the animals. Take everyone and get out quickly. Now. Please. Leave. Leave before we are all destroyed.”

Moses turned to the Hebrew elders and directed them to go ahead and give word. They were all dressed for travel, carrying satchels and fully laden bags, as if they had been expecting to be released.

Wordlessly, Moses turned to leave.

“Moses, my Lord,” Pirit pleaded. “Is this the end? Will this end the deaths and the destruction in Egypt?”

Moses looked at Pirit with a solemn, sad face. “That will depend on you,” he pointed at all of them, “you and the will of Pharaoh,” he pointed at Pharaoh.

Pirit shivered, if it is up to us and Pharaoh, then we are truly doomed.

And without a further word, Moses turned his back on the Egyptians, never to see his birthplace, the land of the Hebrew oppressors again.

* * * * * *


Exodus Chapter 11

4 And Moses said: ‘Thus saith the Lord: About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill; and all the first-born of cattle. 6 And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there hath been none like it, nor shall be like it any more. 7 But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog whet his tongue, against man or beast; that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. 8 And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down unto me, saying: Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee; and after that I will go out.’ And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. {S} 9 And the Lord said unto Moses: ‘Pharaoh will not hearken unto you; that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’ 10 And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

Exodus Chapter 12

5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats; 6 and ye shall keep it unto the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at dusk. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; its head with its legs and with the inwards thereof. 10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11 And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste–it is the Lord’s passover. 12 For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

29 And it came to pass at midnight, that the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night and said: ‘Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.’ 33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, to send them out of the land in haste; for they said: ‘We are all dead men.’

II Kings Chapter 4

25 So she went, and came unto the man of God to Mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant: ‘Behold, yonder is that Shunammite. 26 Run, I pray thee, now to meet her, and say unto her: Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child?’ And she answered: ‘It is well.’ 27 And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came near to thrust her away; but the man of God said: ‘Let her alone; for her soul is bitter within her; and the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told Me.’ 28 Then she said: ‘Did I desire a son of my lord? Did I not say: Do not deceive me?’ 29 Then he said to Gehazi: ‘Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thy hand, and go thy way; if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not; and lay my staff upon the face of the child.’ 30 And the mother of the child said: ‘As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.’ And he arose, and followed her.