“Let my people go!”


It’s a classic line. It even made it as a negro spiritual song! Yes, finally, in our cycle of reading, we’ve got to one of the most important events, if not the most important event in Jewish history – the Exodus.

God makes it very clear to Moses that he should not rely on himself or his limited powers

Our parasha this week begins with a promise that God makes to Moses: “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” (Shemot/Exodus 6:1) God makes it very clear to Moses that he should not rely on himself or his limited powers, but that there are greater and wiser powers to rely on, namely Himself. God wanted Moses and He wants us to rely on Him and not on our own strength. Moses understood this and consulted God over every step he made before he took it. This is of course a lesson for us too: we are constantly making mistakes, and we should learn humbly from them in our service for the Lord, but also use them to make ourselves aware of our dependence on God. God teaches Moses by allowing his initial efforts as a leader to fail before rescuing us Himself through mighty miracles.

In our parasha, the Lord remembers His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and begins to free our people. There are interesting parallels between the Exodus and Abraham’s story. First, Abraham fled from his slavery, from Ur, and now a whole nation departs from Egypt and its slavery. Second, we know from tradition that there were many pagan gods in Ur – and in the Exodus story centuries later there was also an abundance of idols in Egypt. In both cases, the goal of the flight from the country of origin was not simply the departure from the pagan system, but also the way for Abraham – and later for our entire people – to come closer to the Lord and to recognise him. There is a reason that this portion is called Vayera, translated: “And I appeared.” These are God’s goals for us: freedom from slavery, our recognition of Him and our closeness to Him.

“I am the Lord your God. You shall not have other gods beside me.”

Concerning the false gods that Abraham and our people had to leave, the first commandment, given later is: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have other gods beside me.” (Shemot/Exodus 20:1-2) From this we know that the Lord hates the images of idols. The plagues that He brought over Egypt are, therefore, above all the expression of God’s superiority over all the Egyptian gods and idols. But the plagues were also necessary for Israel – to eradicate any idolatry from our people. The Lord is a jealous God and He does not want to share us with any idols in our lives – whether wood and stone like the ancient Egyptians, or self-reliance, pride and love of self today.

But what exactly was the main goal of the Exodus from Egypt? In Shemot/Exodus 8:16, we read, “This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” This passage makes it clear that the real objective of our freedom is, above all, the worship and service of the Lord. And so it can happen that people who have chosen to follow the Lord will return to the world of slavery if they have not made the service to the Lord their main goal. What God really wants to do with us is ensure our liberation from slavery and our dedication to serve Him alone.

Much later, God spoke through Moses to our people: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.” (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 18:18-19) These words refer, of course, to the Messiah – to Yeshua. But take a look at the end of the verse, which can be interpreted as “I will hold them accountable if they do not listen.” So while the Almighty told Moses that He will force Pharaoh to let Israel go, so that they can serve him, He says later on something similar, but this time to the entire people of Israel. If Israel does not listen to the words of the Messiah, we will have to suffer the consequences.

Are you living a life of freedom in service to the Messiah, just as God intended? That’s certainly something to think about!

Now reading:
“Let my people go!”