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    When we get there

    The Ten Plagues, Venice Haggadah, 1609

    The Ten Plagues, Venice Haggadah, 1609

    As the plagues unfold things get more and more desperate for Pharaoh and the Egyptians until Pharaoh is almost ready to cave in (Ex. 10).

    He actually talks about letting the Israelites go to worship God in the wilderness but he asks who will be going and what would they be doing, and he doesn’t like the answer.

    Commenting on this impasse, Pinhas Peli quotes a story of Rabbi Chayyim of Sanz.

    Rabbi Chayyim asked his disciples, “What would you do if you found a purse of money on Shabbat – would you pick it up?”

    “Of course not,” said one young man.

    “You fool!” said the rabbi, who then turned to the second student.

    “Rabbi,” said that one, “I would pick it up.”

    “You sinner!” said the rabbi, who then looked at the third student.

    “Rabbi,” said the third student, “I just don’t know. I would struggle with myself before deciding. I hope I would be able to decide properly!”

    “At last we have the right answer!” said Rabbi Chayyim.

    Pinhas Peli applies this story to the dilemma of the Israelites in Egypt.

    What would they be doing when they encountered God in the wilderness?

    Textbook answers aren’t necessarily the answer. In Peli’s words, what the Israelites could have said was, “We shall not know how we are to worship the Lord until we get there.”

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