Our portion of the week opens, in the second verse (Exodus 10:2), with the reason for the Ten Plagues. You might have thought that they are to punish the Egyptians and to teach them a lesson. But it says very clearly: So that you – the Jews – will know that I’m G^d. First-and-for-all, it’s a Revelation for us.
The same verse touches on something else that is important to realize. We don’t best remember things by thinking, reading or hearing them. We memorize things best by saying them. Not when you see or hear My Miracles and not when you hear about them but when you relate the story.
Teaching is more important than learning because that way, we better retain the learning. And, as a rabbi confessed in the forward to his collection of sermons: When you’re preaching, it’s hard not to overhear yourself. It just penetrates deeper into our being when we talk about it to others.
The Jewish religion makes us do that all the time. Our twice-a-day profession of faith, we are saying to the whole of the Jewish People: Shema’ Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:4). We don’t just read it or even just say it out-loud – we tell it – as it is – to all Jews. We testify – the first and the last letter (extra large in the Torah scroll) of the six-word Shema’ spell testimony in Hebrew.
In our trice-a-day prayers, we talk to G^d. We don’t just contemplate or just declare – we approach. The question should be asked, why don’t we just say these things to ourselves? Two more reasons.
When you promise something to people you love, your commitment is much stronger. When you speak to some-One you care about, your words get more meaning than if you would just say something to yourself.
There may be an additional reason why we don’t just pray or confess in isolation. Loneliness is one of our greatest enemies. All people are already told early (Genesis 2:18) that it’s not good to be alone – with our evil inclination. But, in addition, by necessity, Jews must be a small People (Deuteronomy 7:7) that dwells alone (Numbers 23:9) – not to assimilate – ourselves or our mission, to be a Kingdom of Ministers, a Holy (meaning: separate) People (Exodus 19:6).
Therefore, we do ourselves a favor when we don’t just speak of what is dear to us only to ourselves but when we declare our convictions and mindset to others we love.
Say it to your children and children’s children so that you may know that I am G^d.
In one verse (Exodus 10:9) we find the verb “we will go” twice. A clever boy in my shul asked why. This question must be asked. How could we read this and not ponder that?! One could further easily wonder why it first says youngsters and elderly – what do they have in common – and what commonality is there in our sons, our daughters, our flock and our cattle?
My simples answer is that giving two groups who will leave is dramatically very different from just giving one whole slew. The latter sounds like bragging; the former is a double whammy. That’s the simplest answer I got.
A deeper simple answer lies in the Hebrew for with. It doesn’t say Eem; it says Be-. Like earlier (in Genesis 15:14), the Torah uses Be- when Abraham gets promised that we will leave captivity in great wealth. It means that these groups will not walk out – they will be [as if] taken, like things. And that, sons, daughters, flock our cattle may have in common. They can be taken. They know how to obey.
But youngsters and the elderly are the opposite. The former have their newly found autonomy and the latter don’t think that anyone should still tell them what to do – compare the beginning of verse Genesis 48:19. They decide for themselves.
Now, we know that the story of the Exodus doesn’t only describe the way we left Egypt but also predicts how we will leave at the final Redemption – may it be soon. We are told here that not only will the rebellious ones be there – they will lead the pack!
Just think about that, next time someone talks derogatorily about rebellious Jews!