Speaking Truth to Pharoah

I was reading the fantastic blog Velveteen Rabbi and she had a link to a Radical Torah piece by Rabbi David Seidenberg on Passover and social responsibility. Since I did a text study on this theme a few years back, focusing on three midrashim from Shmot Rabba, I thought I’d share them below…

1) And...Moses...went out to his brothers and looked upon their burdens... What did he see? He would look upon their burdens and cry and say, "I feel so distressed for you. If only I could die for you. Their is no harder work than the work of bricks and mortar." And he would help them with their work, every one of them.

2) Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Yose the Galilean said: He saw heavy burdens put upon small people, and light ones upon big people; men's burdens upon women, and women's burdens upon men; the burden that an old man could carry on a youth, and that of a youth on an old man. So he would from time to time step away from his retinue and rearrange the burdens, making believe that his intention was to be of help to Pharaoh.The Holy One said: You left your own concerns and went to look with compassion at the distress of Israel, behaving like a brother toward them. So, I, too, will leave those on high and those below, and speak [only] with you.

3) Another comment on "He looked on their burdens." He saw that they had no rest whatever. So he said to Pharaoh, "When a man has a slave and the slave does not rest at least one day during the week, the slave will die. These are your slaves. If you do not let them rest one day during the week, they will surely die." Pharaoh replied, "Go and do with them as you say."So Moses went and ordained the Sabbath day for them to rest.

And btw, here’s a few of my Passover musings over the years…

On Eggs http://www.juf.org/news_public_affairs/article.asp?key=2249
On History http://www.clal.org/ss59.html
On Freedom http://www.jewishbulletin.ca/archives/Mar02/archives02mar22-04.html

A Zissen Pesach to all!