By Rabbi Howard Wolk
This d’var Torah is dedicated to the memory of my wife, Annette, Chana Bayla bat Yehoshua, z”l, whose fourth yahrzeit was observed on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 6 Shevat.
After seven plagues and with the eighth pending, Pharaoh yields to the pressure. The courtiers tell the king: Do something before all of Egypt is destroyed. “How long will this one be a snare to us?”
The king is now ready in principle to consider granting the Israelites an exit. He has one question for Moses: Mi vami ha’holchim — Who is going? Who specifically will leave Egypt to serve Hashem?
Pharaoh is ready to let a few troublemakers go, a few activists. Let them pack up and go.
Nahmanidesexplains that Pharaoh wanted a list of “who’s who.” Only a select few by invitation would be going.
Moshe answers: Our young and our old will go, our sons and daughters, our sheep and our flock … for we have a celebration for Hashem.
Moshe was informing the king that a celebration with G-d is not confined to the elite, but belongs to the entire people.
Moshe’sfirst mentioning binaraynu — our young — underscores this idea. He wants Pharaoh to hear about the spirited youth of Israel who rose in miraculous ways during years of bondage.
Pharaoh’s concept of religious celebration is altogether different from that of Moshe.
Not so, says Pharaoh, just the adult males shall go. They are the only ones for whom celebrating with G-d is important.
Pharaoh was the first religious male chauvinist. No room for women; no room for the aged; the young are not allowed.
Moshe instead said we would go with our sons and daughters, our young and our old.
Annette was a teacher and a model for boys and girls, men and women of all ages. Her lessons — in the classroom and in daily interactions with people — impacted all who knew her.
In Israel today, the holy battle against Hamas is led by the young men and women of our homeland. They are joined by others of all ages even as Moses stated that Israelites of all ages would leave Egypt. Seasoned veterans, military experts and advisers. The country is fortified daily by the tireless efforts of volunteers who work on farms, host BBQs on army bases, visit the injured and bereaved and do much more.
My wife Julie and I just returned from Israel. We marked the conclusion of sheloshim for her grandson, Sgt. Binyamin Meir Airley, who fell in battle in Gaza. We volunteered in many capacities.
I urge everyone to go to Israel to visit, to volunteer. Our Jewish Federation of Dallas is having a Solidarity Mission next month. Join our own community members.
If you are planning a family getaway for Passover — THIS year in Jerusalem!
Rabbi Howard Wolk is community chaplain with Jewish Family Service and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.