From the first moment that G-d revealed Himself to Moshe at the Burning Bush,
Moshe was faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, G-d was sending him to save
the Jews. This would encourage a dependency on the part of the Bnai Yisroel
for their savior Moshe. On the other hand, his ultimate mission was to direct
the allegiance of the nation to G-d alone, and foster their complete
dependency upon G-d. However, the more involved Moshe became in the lives of
the people, the more their dependency upon Moshe grew. How was Moshe, as
their leader and teacher, going to direct their dependency away from himself
and toward G-d?
In many ways, Moshe's dilemma mirrors our obligation as parents and
educators. We too must, at the same time, teach our children and students to
be independent, while the process of parenting and instruction fosters
dependency. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two. With
parenting and teaching, there is a natural tendency on the part of the student
and child toward independence. Therefore, in most instances, the parent and
teacher engage in equal measures of instruction and discipline. Instruction
is the imparting of information and the teaching of basic life skills.
Discipline is the redirection of individual expression and the training we
give our charges to make them responsible for themselves and society. It is a
process of curbing independence rather than a fostering of dependency.
Religious training and commitment, on the other hand, is a constant battle
between our natural inclination toward independence and our obligation to
completely subjugate our independence in relation to Hashem. Moshe's need to
discipline the Jews would be in response to the nation's expression of
independence away from G-d. Each consequence would attempt to rehabilitate
their individuality toward dependency upon G-d, rather than simply refining
their sense of independence to be more responsible. His teachings would
present a constant conflict between our obligation to do as G-d wants and our
desire to do as we want.
If we analyze this further we can see that in many ways parenting and
teaching really do mirror Moshe's dilemma. The fundamental challenge facing
us all is between doing as we wish or subjecting ourselves to the demands of
an authority figure. Whether it is the authority of G-d or the authority of
society, we are in a constant battle. Just as a child or student has a
natural tendency toward independence, so too do we have a natural tendency
toward independence. Just as a student or child must be trained to curb his
independence for the greater good of the family, classroom or society; so too,
we had to curb our independence for the greater good of our relationship with
G-d. However, there is still a fundamental difference between the mission
that Moshe Rabbeinu had to undertake and the goal of parenting and teaching.
The process of teaching and parenting assumes a gradual maturation on the
part of the child and student. This maturation works in tandem with the
instruction and discipline offered by the teacher and the parent. The
expectation is that, at some point, the processes of instruction, discipline,
and maturation will temper the natural tendency toward independence. The
independent child will metamorphous into a responsible adult who is willing
and able to balance his needs and desires with his obligations toward G-d and
society. Moshe's mission and expectations were quite different.
Moshe was dealing with an adult population who had serious reasons for
challenging the notion of subjugating their newly gained independence to an
unknown and unseen G-d. This was not a simple matter of intellectual and
physical maturation that eventually kicks in, given enough time and
experiences. The Bnai Yisroel had suffered enslavement for 210 years. The
Bnai Yisroel had developed their own answers and philosophies to explain the
seemingly chaotic injustices of a cruel and heartless destiny. The Bnai
Yisroel had been spiritually challenged to understand the contrast between
their illustrious beginnings as the "children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov"
and their ignoble end as "slaves to Pharaoh. Therefore, Moshe's mission was
far more challenging than the anticipated difficulties of "Tzar Geidul Banim
- the pains of child rearing." How was Moshe going to reeducate and redirect
the nation's newly found independence from Pharaoh, into a voluntary
subjugation of that independence to Hashem?
A further analyses of the exodus from Egypt reveals that the circumstances of
the nation's flight from Egypt was designed to highlight the contrast between
the nations' assumed independence and Moshe's mission to motivate their
dependency on Hashem.
First of all, the entire sequence of the 10 plagues was an overt display of
G-d's control over nature, humankind, and society. The totality of His
manifest power forced the Bnai Yisroel and the Egyptians to acknowledge their
own impotence and insignificance in contrast to G-d. At the same time, the
Jews reveled in their newly "gifted" freedom and independence from the
oppression of their former masters.
Secondly, the Bnai Yisroel taking the wealth of Egypt prefaced their actual
departure from Egypt. "And they emptied Egypt!" (12:36). At the same time,
they were so hurried to leave that they were unable to take any other
provisions except for Matzo. (12.39). This meant that some three million
people would eventually be left without food or water in a barren wilderness.
At the same time that these former slaves were carrying away the wealth of
Egypt feeling like they were finally masters of their own destiny, they
weren't even able to provide for their own most basic needs! With all their
wealth they could not buy a glass of water or a crust of bread. What a
contrast between their reality of dependence and their illusion of
Thirdly, following their miraculous flight from Egypt, the nation found
themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. With the enraged, elite
forces of Pharaoh behind them, and the depths of the sea in front of them,
Moshe their savior had failed them! It had all been a terrible mistake!
"Were there no graves in Mitzrayim that you took us to die in the wilderness .
. .It is better that we should serve Mitzrayim than to die in the wilderness!"
(14:11-12). Moshe answered them: Now you know the truth! The dream of your
own independence; the assumed control that came with your newfound wealth; and
the dependency you have developed upon me as your savior, has all been an
illusion! I can do nothing to save you! "Do not fear! Stand fast and see
the salvation of Hashem . . .He shall do battle . . .and you shall remain
The aftermath of the Parting of the Sea was a singular moment when the nation
fully understood their relationship with G-d and with Moshe. "And they
believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant. (14:31). Moshe was finally
acknowledged as the servant of G-d. He had no other personal significance
other than his appointment as the servant of G-d. It was G-d who had saved
them. It would be G-d, not Moshe, who would continue to protect them!
The Torah records five further incidents of the Independence vs. Dependence
conflict, culminating in the battle against Amalek. Each of these incidences
continues the theme of the conflict between the nations newfound independence
and wealth in contrast to the reality of their absolute dependency on G-d.