Departure Gate

Recently I read a very interesting interview with Rabbi Yaacov Chinitz  z”l.

In it Rabbi Chinitz says that the book of Genesis, in which we are told about the beginning of the universe, and the book of Exodus, in which we are told about the beginning of the people of Israel, both start paradoxically with two “departures”.

This is thought-provoking.

Usually we enter through the entry gate and leave through the exit gate. But when we read those two books, we immediately meet “departure”.

Already in the first chapters of Genesis we learn about Adam and Eve’s leaving the Garden of Eden, and the first chapters of Exodus tell us about the exodus from Egypt.

Abraham’s “Lech Lecha” also begins with a departure.  (Get thee out of thy country…….unto a land that I will show you.)  (And don’t all our lives begin with leaving the womb and entering a world full of light and fears?)

The message seems clear.

We would expect all those beginnings to be marked by some entrance sign. But evidently the Torah has the opposite message. In the existence of the universe, in the life of the nation and in the life of the individual, beginnings are marked by departure signs.

The active life of Moses also begins with a painful departure from the pampered world of Pharaoh’s palace, his ivory tower, into the real world of challenges and human suffering.  Until then, he lived in the king’s palace where no one knew his true identity (and neither did he!)

Why did he go out? Who needs troubles when life seems pampered and perfect?

And suddenly the Torah tells us three stories that mark the change in Moses’ life and describe the way he has left his old life behind.

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren (Exodus 2, 11).

And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smites thou thy fello? (Exodus 2, 13).

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock (Exodus 2, 16-17).

It made no difference to Moses whether the conflict concerned a Gentile and a Hebrew, or two of his own people, or complete strangers.

The pursuit of justice is above any communal or national consideration.


A well-known saying says that life begins at the age of forty. This is true of Moses as at the age of forty he left Pharaoh’s home.

However, the Torah hints at deeper and more moral connotations which are far less chronological.

No wonder that the beginning of the life of the people of Israel, which we celebrate during Pesach, is marked by signs of departure: Going from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from mourning to celebration, from darkness to great light, from enslavement to redemption.

True life, even the life of a nation, begins when one goes out.

About the Author
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski is the Rabbi at Kehillat Netzach Israel, the Masorti (Conservative) congregation in Ashkelon.