“And the Lord saw the children of Israel, and the Lord knew.”
The final verse of chapter 2 confronts us with a number of problems. Firstly, the verse is cryptic and entirely superfluous. The Torah could have finished the chapter with God’s hearing Israel’s cries and remembering his promise. What is added by God’s seeing and knowing, which is absent any object to explain it. What does God see? What does God know? And secondly- why has God waited to spring into action until now? Governmental orders to slaughter Jewish babies wasn’t enough suffering to justify engagement?
The first question begins to answer the second when we notice the centrality of the motif of sight in the chapter. Before God sees Israel’s suffering, Moshe sees it. In an act of solidarity that is difficult to grasp, the prince of Egypt identifies with the plight of the slaves, and intervenes on their behalf.
But that Moshe can see is really no surprise. Moshe lives thanks only to the ability of two women to see against all odds.
The first instance of the root ‘ra’ah‘ in the chapter is Moshe’s mother, for whose seeing the Torah borrows the language of creation, ki tov, it was good. Amidst total despair, she sees a new light created in the world, and hope is born. But this fragile hope would not survive were it not for the pivotal actions of the story’s most surprising character. Pharaoh’s daughter heroic ability to see beyond her bubble, to fully see and hear the cry of a child of the enslaved Hebrews, anticipates and enables God’s seeing and hearing.
Only when we see, can God see and know that if He has partners on the ground, then the time for redemption has come.
My own little daily 929 insight, in 300 words or so. What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il