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The Messianic Vision Of Passover, Hiding In Plain Sight

The Exodus Story That Could Have Been


Rabbi David Fohrman

Rabbi David Fohrman

Founder and Lead Scholar

The story of Exodus ends in carnage for the Egyptians, and in glorious salvation for the Israelites – but could this story have ended differently? Could the Egyptians also have lived happily ever after?

We read in the Exodus that Pharaoh rejects Moshe’s original request to let the Israelites pray to their father, God. And so the 10 plagues are unleashed upon the Egyptians. And only until the final plague – the death of the firstborn – does Pharoah relent. Yet, still, rather than let the Israelites leave in peace, in the last moment, the Egyptians try to chase them down in chariots – only to drown in the Sea of the Reeds.

If we closely study these events in the Exodus story, we start to see uncanny resemblances to another biblical story – when Joseph asks Pharaoh to honor the death of his ‘father’ Jacob. Only, in that story, the Egyptians and the Israelites leave Egypt together in unity – the chariots accompany the Israelites out of the land. Was this earlier story intended to be instructions for the later Pharaoh?

Join Rabbi Fohrman as he examines these two stories, and never read the Exodus story the same way again.

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Transcript

Hi everybody, it is Rabbi David Fohrman here, and Pesach is on its way. The Seder looms. You want to say something at the Seder, but, at least at the Sedarim that I've personally been at, you know, there's a problem, because the temptation is to focus on a lot of the little stuff. And at the beginning of the Hagaddah, there is a lot of little stuff, there's a lot of what we might call prologue – stories about Rabbi Akiva in B'nei Brak, Ben Azai with the streaks in his beard, looking as if he is 70 years old – and, you know, it's easy to pick apart the minutia associated with those stories, but by the time you're done with that, it's 11 at night, everybody's hungry, and frankly, nobody at the table has really gotten a chance to talk about any of the big stuff – the story of the Exodus itself, or even the larger themes that emerge from that story.

In this video series, I'm going to try to focus with you on some of that "big stuff." I want to help us develop a perspective on the Exodus saga as a whole, and try to glimpse some new meaning in it. Meaning that will enrich not only our understanding of the Exodus story, but also our understanding of our own destiny, because we're a nation that came into being through that story.

Violence or Compassion: What Is the Exodus Story Really About?

I want to begin by sharing something which has always gnawed at me, whenever I found myself rereading the Biblical text that recounts the grand climax of the Exodus, I'm talking about the confrontation of Egypt and Israel at the Sea of Reeds God tells Moses, don't worry about it, He's got it all taken care of, I'm going to split the sea, the Israelites are going to walk through on to dry land, the Egyptians are going to chase them. And then the language of the text is, God tells Moses that when that happens...

וְאִכָּבְדָה בְּפַרְעֹה וּבְכָל-חֵילוֹ, בְּרִכְבּוֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁיו

... I'm going to be honored through Pharaoh, through his army, through his chariots, through his horsemen…

Now, what exactly does that mean? Seemingly, God is referring to what is about to happen a few verses later on: Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen chase the Israelites, but they are drowned by converging walls of water. So you know, you'll forgive me if this sounds a bit too forward, but doesn't that kind of sound like, almost, a mean thing to say – that you, God, are going to take honor in all this death and destruction?

I mean, it feels almost "unbecoming" of the Almighty to speak that way. Yeah, it's true, the enemies of the Israelites are the Egyptians, and yeah, it is better that they be destroyed than be allowed to recapture and re-enslave Israel, but look, it is one thing to reassure Israel that you will defend her by killing her enemies, it's another thing to say that you are going to take glory and honor from all that killing. Why would you phrase it that way if you're God?

How Is God Depicted in the Exodus Story?

Okay, so, you might just say that there is no real problem here, it's just my own, personal sensitivity that seem to run against the grain of the verse. But the truth is, it's not just my own personal sensitivities. Interestingly enough, the Sages of the Talmud actually suggested that the Almighty Himself shares those very same sensitivities. Here's actually what they say:

...אין הקדוש ברוך הוא שמח במפלתן של רשעים... באותה שעה בקשו מלאכי השרת לומר שירה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא, אמר להן הקדוש ברוך הוא: מעשה ידי טובעין בים ואתם אומרים שירה לפני?

The Holy One, Blessed is He, does not rejoice in the downfall of evil-doers.

...In the moment [when Egypt was destroyed at the Sea], the heavenly angels wished to sing in rapture before the Holy One Blessed Be He.

But God said to them: My creatures, [the Egyptians], are drowning in the Sea, and you're going to pick this time to rejoice in front of Me?" (Tractate Megillah, 10b).

Look at the whole point the Sages are making here: don't rejoice at the downfall of your enemies, particularly if you're God. God is the creator, and even his enemies are creatures that He's created. There is something bitter in the taste of victory against them.

And what's really weird is that the same story that we felt seemed to offend our sensitivities, the story of the splitting of the sea, is where the Sages get their proof-text from, that God would never rejoice in the downfall of the wicked. So what's going on here? How could they have looked at that same story, which has this verse that talks about God taking glory and honor from the destruction of Egypt – how could they have looked at that story and say, no, God would never rejoice in the downfall of the wicked! They were surely aware of the verse! How could they ignore it?

So I want to suggest to you that it is actually we who are misinterpreting the verse, not the Sages. In other words, when the Almighty spoke of taking honor from all the king's horses and all the king's men, he wasn't actually talking about taking glory from the deaths of the Egyptians whatsoever. If you look carefully at the verse, it never says God's taking honor from their deaths, I'm taking honor from Pharaoh and from his horsemen and from his archers, the verse doesn't actually mean he's taking honor from their deaths, what the verse really means, is something else entirely.

The glory that would come, as the text phrases it, "from the chariots and archers of Egypt," is actually the tip of a very large iceberg – an iceberg that shows us a whole new face of the entire Exodus story.

As it turns out, these chariots and archers of Egypt that supposedly are going to honor God – it's not the first time we encounter them in the Torah.

The Bible's Precursor to the Exodus Story?

They show up one other time in the Five Books of Moses, earlier, at the very end of the Book of Genesis, in a story that involves, of all things, a funeral procession for the patriarch Jacob. But the really remarkable thing is that it's not just this particular element of the Exodus – the chariots and archers – that happen to appear earlier, in the Genesis burial story. It's actually a whole bunch of elements from the Exodus story that seem to get "borrowed" by that very same burial story of Jacob. I want to kind of go through these similarities between the stories, and then see what it is you and I make of them.

Let me give you an example, here's a verse from the story of the burial of Jacob. It's an ordinary verse that wouldn't really cause even a raised eyebrow. As a matter of fact, it appears to tell us something so trivial that one wonders why it even needed to be said at all. The verse says that everyone went on this procession for Jacob:

רַק, טַפָּם וְצֹאנָם וּבְקָרָם–עָזְבוּ, בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן.

...but they left behind their children, their sheep and their cattle, that they all left in the Land of Goshen.

Why did the Torah tell me that? I mean, imagine that the Torah had not gone out of its way to tell you whether or not the people joining Jacob's funeral procession had brought their little kids along with them. Let's say we had not been told whether the sheep and cattle had come along. Would you have read the story of Jacob's burial, and then, you know, closed your copy of the Bible in astonishment, slapped your knee and exclaimed: But I wonder what happened with all those little kids! Did they take them all along, or leave them with babysitters? What were the daycare arrangements like? And all those animals, was someone cattle-sitting, or were they dragging their animals back and forth? What happened with the animals?

You probably wouldn't have said that, right? Why does the Bible bother to tell us about these things? Of what significance is this completely trivial information?

But consider this: In that phrase about the little children and the cattle, we actually hear a premonition of things to come. Because when else in the Bible are Israelites getting ready to leave Egypt, and then, suddenly, the issue of whether they bring along their little children, sheep and cattle, starts to take center stage? That happens during the story of the Exodus.

As you might recall from your previous knowledge of the Exodus, child-care and animal-care logistics actually were part of the negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh. Moses had originally asked Pharaoh not for a blanket release of all the Israelites, to leave for good and make a new home for themselves in the Promised Land. On the contrary, Moses' original request of Pharaoh was much more limited: Could you let your slaves go for just three days into the desert, to worship their God, the Creator that they worship? Pharaoh, of course, at first arrogantly denied that request, then later on, gives into it partially, asking for the children and perhaps the cattle to be left behind. Look at that...the children, and animals, they become an issue. Interesting.

But it could be a coincidence, but let's keep on going and see.

Studying the Bible's Parallels Behind the Passover Story

Are there other parallels between the Exodus story and the Burial of Jacob? Turns out there are. Consider the location at which the burial procession stopped for a while to eulogize Jacob before they got to their ultimate destination in the caves of Machpelah. The place they stopped for eulogies was called Goren Ha'atad. As it happens, the Torah actually makes a point of telling us exactly where Goren Ha'atad was located:

וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-גֹּרֶן הָאָטָד, אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן

They came to Goren Ha'ated, which is on the other side of the Jordan River (Genesis, 50:10).

But let's do just a little reality check of the geography: What, exactly, was the burial procession doing on the east bank of the Jordan?

The shortest route from Egypt to Hebron is actually to basically head northwest in a straight line. If the burial party traveled to Canaan via Goren Ha'atad, it means they went seriously out of their way. Leaving Egypt, they've had to swoop down to the south of Canaan, traverse the Sinai desert, swing up and around the Dead Sea, travel due north for the entire length of the sea, then hook left to cross the Jordan River, probably somewhere near Jericho. And that would really be taking the long way.

The truth is, I can't explain to you why they chose such a roundabout route for the burial procession. But the fact that they did is quite intriguing – because that particular route reminds the reader of another great journey. That was the route the Children of Israel took, centuries later, in the event we know as the Exodus from Egypt.

So the route of the burial party anticipates the route of the Exodus. Very intriguing. That's another connection between the burial story and the Exodus. But there's still one more I want to share with you. Let's talk about 'Canaanite onlookers.'

So in the burial story, the Torah makes a point of telling us that the Canaanites gazed out at the burial procession, which of course included lots of Egyptians along with the family of Jacob, and they exclaimed in wonder: 'What heavy mourning this is for Egypt!' Well, in the Exodus story, wouldn't you know it, the Canaanite onlookers are back again. This time, they appear in the ecstatic song of thanksgiving that the Israelites sang after the victory at the Sea of Reeds. If you look at that song, there's a role that the Canaanites onlookers have, and it's actually the same role as these onlookers had in the burial story.

שָׁמְעוּ עַמִּים, יִרְגָּזוּן... נָמֹגוּ כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי כְנָעַן

The nations heard [what happened to Egypt]; the inhabitants of Canaan shrank away in fear (Exodus 15:14–15).

So in the burial story, the Canaanites are astonished at what's happened to Egypt, and later on the Sea, at the Exodus, the Canaanites once again are astonished at what's

So one by one, each of these elements from the burial story, they all seem to get repeated in the Exodus story. The chariots and the archers, the babysitting and the animal care arrangements, the route taken from Egypt to Israel, even the Canaanite onlookers. It seems as if these connections between the Burial of Jacob and the Exodus stories are more than the product of mere coincidence. The Torah seems to be asking you and me, the reader, to line up these two journeys away from Egypt, and to actually see them in relationship to one another.

happening in Egypt.

The Meaning of the Exodus Story That You Almost Missed

So here's a theory I'd like to suggest to you. I want to suggest that the Jacob's burial story is a kind of precursor of the Exodus, and more than that, that the Torah actually sets up this burial story almost as a kind of lens through which you and I can look out upon the Exodus. If we look through that lens, we'll actually find ourselves looking at something remarkable: A whole new way of seeing the Exodus as a whole.

That new perspective on the Exodus will help us answer the question we raised above about "taking honor" from killing people, what exactly that meant, but it's also, again, going to help us see, really, the whole story of the Exodus differently. It will help us see our destiny differently, because we are the nation that came into being through this story of the Exodus. But in order to see how that's so, we need to go back and examine the Jacob's burial story, that lens, just a little more carefully.

Joseph’s Two Fathers

So let's dive into Jacob's burial story. As we said, the patriarch Jacob was eventually buried in the land of Canaan, but that did not just happen out of the blue. It was a delicately negotiated matter between Jacob and his son Joseph.Here's the scene: Jacob, who is approaching death, calls for his beloved son, Joseph, and tells him that he wishes to be buried where his fathers were buried – a place known to us as the Cave of Machpelah, located in Hebron. The Torah then gives us Joseph's response to his father's request, Joseph says:

אָנֹכִי אֶעֱשֶׂה כִדְבָרֶךָ.

I'll do as you've asked (Genesis 47:30).

Now, if the Book of Genesis had ended right here, and you had to guess what the very next thing to happen was – what would you imagine taking place right now? I mean, if you were Jacob, lying there on your bed, and you had expressed this request to your loyal son, and he had answered – yes, father, you can totally count on me to bury you in the family tomb – what would you do next?

I don't know about you, but if I'd been in Jacob's shoes at that moment, I might've said something like: Thank you very much, son. I knew I could count on you. I mean, something in that general ballpark, at least. But that is not at all what Jacob says. Instead, he tells his son this:

הִשָּׁבְעָה לִי

Swear to me [that you'll do it] (Genesis 47:31).

I mean, is this for real? Here is your loyal son, assuring you that he'll do exactly what you asked of him. And you ask him to swear that he'll really do it? What a terribly awkward thing to ask of him! Is Jacob intimating that he doesn't trust him?

Whatever Joseph might think of his father's demand, Joseph takes the oath. And then Jacob does another strange thing:

וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַל-רֹאשׁ הַמִּטָּה.

And Jacob then bowed towards the head of the bed.

Why would he do that? The ancient sages of the Midrash wondered about that, and here was their interpretation:

עַל שֶהָיְתָה מִטָּתוֹ שְלֵמָה שֶאֵין בָּהּ רֶשַע, שֶהַרֵי יוֹסֵף מֶלֶך הוּא, וְעוֹד שֶנִשְבָּה לְבֵין הַגּוֹיִם, וְהַרֵי הוּא עוֹמֵד בְּצִדקוֹ

[He prostrated himself to God] because his legacy was whole, insofar as not one of [his children] was wicked – for Joseph was [Egyptian] royalty, and furthermore, he had been captured [and lived] among heathens, and yet he remained steadfast in his righteousness (Rashi, from Sifrei Va'etchanan 31, Sifrei Ha'azinu 334).

According to the Sages, when Joseph agreed with Jacob's request, Jacob saw how righteous his son was. Despite Joseph's many years in Egypt, he had not assimilated into the heathen culture. Jacob now felt his legacy was 'complete,' and he bowed in gratitude.

But let's take a moment to ponder what the Sages are actually telling us here. They suggest that Jacob had what amounts to a revelatory moment at the end of this discussion with him about burial arrangements. Seventeen years into his life in Egypt, he finally realized that his son had not assimilated into heathen culture. But should it really have taken Jacob seventeen years to realize this?

Put yourself in Jacob's shoes. Looking back over the course of your life, if you could identify any one moment – and only one moment – at which you came to realize that yes, your beloved son Joseph, he was still a loyal, God-fearing member of this budding family of Israel, when would that moment have been?

It would've been seventeen years before this, right, when you first set eyes on your long-lost son Joseph after two decades of being apart. Joseph had run to greet him, had embraced him, had cried, had set the family up in Goshen, taken care of their every need. Look at him, he's still a God-fearing man, Joseph is, he's devoted to his family. Power hasn't made him forget his roots. That seems like the moment Jacob should have realized what a good son Joseph is. Why then, do the Sages say that it's only now, seventeen years later, on his deathbed, that Jacob understands this?

The Sages of the Midrash seem to be telling us that despite all of this, Jacob was uncertain whether Joseph would really fulfill his request, and that this was really the moment of truth that would decide whether he was a righteous son. He needed Joseph to swear to him that he'd bury him. Why?

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

But the truth is, if you keep on reading the story, if you fast forward to the moment that Jacob actually dies, and you watch what happens, you, see, I think, that Jacob was on to something to. It seems he had reason to fear, maybe, that his wishes to be buried in Canaan wouldn't be so easy to fulfill. Look what happens when he dies.

The text tells us that Joseph weeps over the body of his father, and then he gets up. One would assume that if Joseph hadn't yet spoken to Pharaoh about his father's peculiar burial request, right about now would be the time to do that. But he doesn't do it. Instead:

וַיְצַו יוֹסֵף אֶת-עֲבָדָיו אֶת-הָרֹפְאִים, לַחֲנֹט אֶת-אָבִיו; וַיַּחַנְטוּ הָרֹפְאִים, אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל

Joseph commanded his servants, the doctors, to embalm his father's body. And they do so. .. Genesis 50:2).

Instead of speaking to Pharaoh about his father's request, Joseph proceeds with what was apparently standard operating procedure for the death of a member of the royal family: he directs that Jacob's body be embalmed. The strange thing is: The embalming process takes weeks – and still, Joseph remains silent. Why isn't he saying anything?

Maybe he's afraid to. Maybe he's procrastinating. Maybe he is worried about how Pharaoh will respond to a request for burial in Canaan.

Consider this: Egypt seems to see itself as very emotionally invested in the death of Jacob. The text tells us that Egypt cried over the death of Jacob for seventy days. Compare those to the future deaths of Aaron and Moses; the Children of Israel, when they die, will only mourn each of those great leaders for 30 days. The Egyptians mourned for Jacob for 70. And it wasn't even Jacob's own nation that did that for him; it was a foreign nation! His death mattered, deeply, to them. Why?

Because… Who was Jacob, in Egypt's eyes? Jacob is the the father of Egypt's savior, Joseph. Joseph saved the people from starvation, and he is second in command to their king! And if Joseph is Egyptian royalty, then Jacob, his father, was treated by the nation, and by Pharaoh, as royalty, too. Which means that, when he dies, his funeral will be a state funeral. Pharaoh's going to see to that.

But how do you think Pharaoh will feel about Egyptian royalty being buried in a little backwater of the Middle East called Canaan? Imagine Queen Elizabeth dies, she gets buried in Madagascar. Things like that don't happen. To even make such a request of Egypt's king would seem to be outrageous!

Jacob did have reason to make Joseph swear he'd bury him in Canaan. Jacob knew how hard it would be for Joseph to make the request of Pharaoh to be buried there. And he knew, once Joseph swore he would do it, that his son was righteous. Because in the ultimate test of loyalty, his son had just chosen his interests over those of the most powerful man in the world. He had just chosen Jacob over Pharaoh.

This choice that faced Joseph, in truth, was not just a choice between loyalty to Father and loyalty to a generic, powerful benefactor. It was, in fact, a much more emotionally wrenching choice for Joseph. It was really a choice between two fathers.

For who, really, was Pharaoh to Joseph? Joseph, remember, had been kidnapped and sold off as a slave to Egypt when he was a mere 17 years old. There, in that foreign land, he had languished in prison for many long years until suddenly, a surprise benefactor pulled him out of the dungeon, asking if he perhaps knew how to interpret some dreams. That man was Pharaoh.

After Joseph successfully interpreted those dreams, not only did Pharaoh make Joseph's life dramatically better than it had been before – he made it better in certain, crucial ways. He gave him a wife. He gave him a new name. He gave him a job. What kind of person helps you find a wife, gives you a name, and can give you a job in the family business? A father does those things for you.

And speaking of father, let's talk about how Pharaoh first gets to know Joseph. What was their topic of conversation? Could you interpret my dreams please? What was the last topic of conversation Joseph discussed with his own father? It was his own dreams and their meaning. Jacob had angrily denounced the implication of Joseph's dreams about the sun and moon and stars bowing to him. It seemed as if Joseph was thinking he would have a kind of ultimate power.

But now, a new kind of father would come on the scene and, in another conversation about dreams, that new father would be so enthralled with Joseph that he would in fact gift him the very power that Joseph had once dreamed about. He would make Joseph second in charge to the most powerful person in the world.

Second in charge…. Hmm, we've heard that before, haven't we?

Yes, Joseph occupied the same position in Pharaoh's household that he had occupied at home. He was second in charge to the ultimate power. At home, that man on top had been his father. Now, in Egypt, that man was Pharaoh.

It seems like Joseph really did have a father-son relationship going with Pharaoh. Which is all fine and well. Except that Joseph, of course, has a real father, too. And eventually, that real father, Jacob, shows up in Egypt, and re-enters Joseph's life. So, for Joseph, everything is fine as long as the interests of those two men – those two fathers – Jacob and Pharaoh, aligned with one another. But what would happen if they ever didn't?

Now is that time. That discussion that Jacob had with Joseph is the moment when Pharaoh's and Jacob's interests diverge. There's just no way to make both men happy anymore. When Joseph is with Pharaoh he can treat him like a father. When he's with Jacob, he can treat him like a father. But now both these men want different things and to honor one may be to seem disloyal to the other. What now?

Now, we understand why it took Jacob seventeen years of living in Egypt to realize that Joseph was 'righteous,' – to realize that Joseph was a completely loyal son. Because Jacob knew the risks Joseph would take by even bringing up the idea of burial in Canaan with Pharaoh. Trying to honor that request could come at a real price for Joseph; his loyalty to Pharaoh, and to Egypt, could be questioned. When Joseph swore that he would bury Jacob in Canaan, Jacob understood what that meant. Joseph accepted the risk. In a contest of loyalty between Jacob and Pharaoh, Joseph had just chosen Jacob.

Still, it is one thing to make a promise and another thing to carry it out. How, in practice, did Joseph manage to actually approach Pharaoh with news of the state funeral that would have to be held in Canaan? And how, in the end, did Pharaoh respond to that outrageous request? The answer to these questions reveal that it wasn't just Joseph who acted honorably and heroically in the affair of Jacob's funeral. Heroism also came from other unexpected quarters, as well...

Honoring Jacob

And so Jacob dies. His body is embalmed, and the people mourn him. Finally, the time comes when Joseph can delay no more. So let's listen in: how exactly does he approach Pharaoh to talk about his father's burial request?

וַיַּעַבְרוּ, יְמֵי בְכִיתוֹ, וַיְדַבֵּר יוֹסֵף, אֶל-בֵּית פַּרְעֹה לֵאמֹר: אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן, בְּעֵינֵיכֶם--דַּבְּרוּ-נָא, בְּאָזְנֵי פַרְעֹה לֵאמֹר

The days of mourning were over. And Joseph spoke to [those in] the house of Pharaoh, saying: 'If I have found favor in your eyes – please speak [on my behalf] in Pharaoh's ears, and say [the following]... (ibid., 50:4).

So notice that Joseph seems to be avoiding a direct discussion with Pharaoh. He talks to "people in the court of Pharaoh," and wants them to carry a message to the king for him. Also, look at the language Joseph uses to address these lower-level courtiers: "If I have found favor in your eyes, please…" He's beseeching them to go to Pharaoh on his behalf. Who is he talking to, so plaintively? I mean, Joseph outranks every last member of Pharaoh's court. It's as if the Vice President were beseeching the deputy Housing Secretary to deliver a personal message on his behalf to the President. The whole spectacle must have seemed just absolutely absurd.

Seemingly, Joseph is avoiding a one-on-one audience with Pharaoh. And we can certainly understand why:

Think about what Egypt had done for Jacob. They had not only mourned him, they had embalmed his body for thirty days. Why? Well… what's the whole point of embalming?

In the religion of Ancient Egypt, one enters the afterlife with his physical body. You would embalm a body to preserve it from decaying, eventually, into dust – so that it will be available as a vehicle to take you to some other world beyond our own. And now, consider what it was that Jacob wanted done to his body. He wanted it buried in the earth. Think about it: Burial and embalming, they aren't just two different ways of relating to a corpse – they are exact opposites ways of relating to a corpse.

Burial, the Israelite custom, facilitates the body's return to dust. As the Torah states: You are dust, and to dust you shall return! (Genesis 3:19). Egyptians, then, would be horrified at the notion of burying one of their royalty. Why would you do such a thing? You are destroying his vehicle to the afterlife!

So Joseph, if you think about it, has really gotten himself backed into a corner here. I mean, if, after forty days of embalming and seventy days of mourning, Joseph finally gets around to asking permission to bury Jacob in the ground – well, at the very least, he could expect Pharaoh to ask rather acidly why Joseph didn't bring up this fine idea seventy days ago. What are we supposed to do now? Pretend that all the embalming and mourning didn't happen ? The honor and fanfare that we gave to your father means nothing to you? At best, Pharaoh might be incredulous; at worst, rageful. Perhaps Joseph doesn't want to be there, in person, to see Pharaoh's response. Perhaps this is an idea better brokered to him by somebody else.

So, here's the message Joseph asks those courtiers to deliver:

אָבִי הִשְׁבִּיעַנִי לֵאמֹר, הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מֵת--בְּקִבְרִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרִיתִי לִי בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, שָׁמָּה תִּקְבְּרֵנִי; וְעַתָּה, אֶעֱלֶה-נָּא וְאֶקְבְּרָה אֶת-אָבִי--וְאָשׁוּבָה.

My father made me swear, saying: 'Here, I am going to die. In my grave that I've carved out for myself in the Land of Canaan, that's where you must bury me.' And so now, let me go up, please, and bury my father – and I will return. (Genesis, 50:5)

The very first thing Joseph mentions to Pharaoh, through these courtiers, is Jacob's oath – and his meaning is clear: If it weren't for this oath, we wouldn't be talking about this.. I just can't break a solemn oath to my father, I'm sure you can understand that. The oath, Joseph hopes, will take some of the sting out of it for Pharaoh. It's ironic, perhaps – and one wonders whether Jacob anticipated this at the time – but the oath Jacob made Joseph take, in the end, was not just something that bound Joseph to his promise, but it became a tool Joseph could actually use to make good on the promise. The oath doesn't help the fact that Jacob's body has already been embalmed, but the oath does give Joseph just a little bit of distance from a request that, were it to have originated simply in Joseph's heart, could have been explosive.

Finally, Joseph says one last thing to Pharaoh: 'and I shall return.' It seems strange that he would even need to say it, as if he needs to assure the king that his loyal servant will faithfully return. But Joseph is doing what he can to reassure Pharaoh. It is like he's saying: I don't intend to be disloyal. I will come back to you. Please just let me do this.

And so, with those final words, Joseph has finally said to the king what he has to say. The die is cast. It is now up to Pharaoh how to respond.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

And how does Pharaoh respond?

Pharaoh actually says yes. Now, at first, it seems like a very reluctant yes, uttered through gritted teeth:

וַיֹּאמֶר, פַּרְעֹה: עֲלֵה וּקְבֹר אֶת-אָבִיךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר הִשְׁבִּיעֶךָ

Pharaoh said: 'Go and bury your father, as he made you swear' (Genesis, 50:6)

Those last words, 'as he made you swear', really color the tone of the statement. As Rashi puts it, Pharaoh appears to be saying: I'm not going to make you violate an oath you made to your father. Were it not for that oath, though, never would I allow such an outrage...

But if you were Joseph, in that situation, look, you'd take what you can get. A halfhearted yes is better than no yes at all, you would probably tell yourself. Joseph has the permission he needs, even if it was given begrudgingly. And as for Pharaoh, with his cold 'yes,' he can just wash his hands of this whole awkward affair, and move on to other pressing affairs of state. The drama, basically, seems over.

But then, in the very next verse, something remarkable happens.

וַיַּעַל יוֹסֵף, לִקְבֹּר אֶת-אָבִיו; וַיַּעֲלוּ אִתּוֹ כָּל-עַבְדֵי פַרְעֹה, זִקְנֵי בֵיתוֹ, וְכֹל, זִקְנֵי אֶרֶץ-מִצְרָיִם

Joseph goes up to bury his father -- and with him, go all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his court, and all the elders of Egypt (ibid., 50:7).

When the time comes for Jacob's burial procession to actually get under way, it turns out that it is not just the family of Jacob who goes, quietly and unobtrusively, to do what they have to do in the Land of Canaan. An entourage from Egypt accompanies them – a delegation of such stature that it could only have been sent by the king himself.

All of Pharaoh's servants set out with the family, along with the elders of the king's court. And it is not just they who go; the palace officials are joined by 'elders of Egypt' – leaders of the general Egyptian populace. All of these people, they're all going to accompany Joseph's father on his final journey.

And one last very special group will be coming along, too:

וַיַּעַל עִמּוֹ, גַּם-רֶכֶב גַּם-פָּרָשִׁים; וַיְהִי הַמַּחֲנֶה, כָּבֵד מְאֹד

And along with [the family and the entourage], chariots and archers went up, as well; the camp was very great (Genesis, 50:9).

Chariots and archers. What would chariots and arches be doing here? This was a funeral, after all, not a campaign of war! But a moment's reflection is enough to settle that question. They were an honor guard. Pharaoh had sent them, too, to escort Joseph's father on his final journey.

All in all, when the time actually came for Jacob's burial procession to depart, Pharaoh did not adopt the stance of a 'cold yes' at all. He sent the finest of Egypt to accompany these Hebrews on their mission to Canaan. All the pageantry of Egypt accompanied a procession of Jacob's family on their way to a little Mesopotamian backwater called Canaan.

What a peculiar sight that procession must have been! The text tells the reader as much when it says that when the procession stopped to eulogize Jacob, the local Canaanites looked on in disbelieving wonder:

וַיַּרְא יוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי אֶת-הָאֵבֶל, בְּגֹרֶן הָאָטָד, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֵבֶל-כָּבֵד זֶה לְמִצְרָיִם;

And the Canaanites of the land saw the mourning, in Goren Ha'atad, and they said: 'What a heavy show of mourning this is for Egypt!' (ibid., 50:11).

Note that the Canaanites viewed this as mourning for Egypt – even though it was really mourning for Jacob. On the one hand, Pharaoh and Egypt had "adopted" Jacob as a kind of national father for Egypt itself; that's why they mourned him so deeply. It really was a mourning for Egypt, like the Canaanites said. And yet, Pharaoh also recognized that Jacob couldn't be entirely recast in Egypt's image. Jacob's true wishes needed to be honored, even if they conflicted with the greater glory of Egypt.

A state funeral beyond Egypt's borders. A great figure of Egyptian royalty buried according to Hebrew, not Egyptian custom. What will all the other nations say? For Pharaoh, it didn't matter. Public relations concerns, what the Canaanites would say, that was not going to be a factor. The loyalty of Egypt to its adopted father is not going to stop at Egypt's door.

Will there be some cultural awkwardness in all this for the royal courtiers and the captains of the King's Guard? Yeah, there probably will be. And burial after embalming? Look, it certainly wasn't the easiest thing to get used to, this is, after all, how Father said he wants to be honored. It is not about us, it is about him.

The story of Jacob's burial, in the end, is the story of two heroes. The first is Joseph. Joseph risked everything to bury his father according to his wishes. He risked the loss of power, prestige, and perhaps most of all, his good standing in the eyes of his adopted father, Pharaoh. But the second hero, unlikely as it may seem, is Pharaoh himself. He resisted the urge to impose upon the venerated Jacob an exclusively Egyptian identity. He allowed Jacob to be who he was – Israelite, not Egyptian – and still, he and the populace would cherish him; still, he and Egypt would regard Jacob as royalty. They would accord him all the honor of a king, a national father, notwithstanding Jacob's rather public decision that Canaan was his true home.The humility evinced by Pharaoh's stance is nothing short of remarkable.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

Having looked carefully at the story of Jacob's Burial, we are now in a position to come back to the questions we asked earlier about the way in which the Exodus seems to parallel that story. As we saw before, the text includes many connections between these two events. What are we to make of those? What would a burial story for a patriarch have to do with an Exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from a land that oppressed them?

God, the Father of the Exodus

Okay, so now it's time for us to return to the questions we raised earlier, about the apparent links between the story of Jacob's burial and the Exodus. We saw that, in one detail after another, these events seem to echo each other.In both cases, it's not just the Israelites who go on a journey away from Egypt; Pharaoh sends his chariots and archers as well.

The babysitting arrangements and the animal care logistics – these show up in Jacob's funeral, and they again become an issue in the Exodus.

The circuitous route taken by the burial party ends up being the same route taken by the Israelites in the Exodus.

And, in both stories, the Canaanites observe what's happening with Egypt and are astonished.

These connections, as we saw before, they don't seem to be coincidental, but what are we to make of them all? Seemingly, they only make sense if, in some essential way, the burial story and the Exodus stories are about the same thing. But how would that be the case? How do these stories converge?

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE HERE]

Well, how about this? The burial story was about a procession setting out from Egypt that was designed to honor a father. What if we started thinking about the Exodus story in precisely that same way? It too was a procession setting out from Egypt – a procession designed to honor a father. It's just that the identity of the father changes. It's no longer an earthly father that's being honored, but a heavenly one.

In other words, maybe we need to make a slight adjustment in how you and I view the Exodus process as a whole. If someone stopped you in the street and asked you: so, what was the Exodus about, like in a sentence or less? How did the Exodus change the status quo? So, the most obvious answer that would come to mind is: The Exodus freed the Israelites from slavery, it set them on a path of becoming a new nation. And that's true. It's just not the whole truth.

There was another agenda in the Exodus as well. Now, we talk about this at length in another Aleph Beta course, the link is below. But that agenda jumps out at you from a number of different elements in the story. Take, for example, the Ten Plagues themselves. If you think about it, that was really the long way of doing things, wasn't it? I mean, God could just have avoided all the plagues and simply whisked the Israelites out of Egypt on magic carpets. Why bother with the plagues? Or maybe, if you are going to use harsh measures like plagues, just use a single overwhelming one – like the Smiting of the Firstborn – just do that at the very beginning and get things over with.

Why did God choose to do it the long way, ten plagues? Clearly, there was another agenda, besides just freeing the nation. God was interested in showing something through those plagues. As God Himself tells Moses more than once, the plagues are there so that:

וְיָדְעוּ מִצְרַיִם כִּי אֲנִי ה'

And Egypt will know that I am God

The Egyptians, they weren't atheists. They believed in gods. They just believed in lots of them. One of the goals of the Exodus, seemingly, was to demonstrate that polytheistic faith was mistaken. There is a single God in control of all of nature. That God is the Creator, the author of every aspect of nature – humans included. The basic idea of monotheism is that human beings don't just have earthly parents, we have a Heavenly Parent, too.

Ten Plagues would demonstrate that. It would demonstrate control over every single aspect of nature. Only the Author of nature could marshall that total control. If Egypt looked at what was happening in the Exodus objectively, they could have come to understand who this God of the Hebrews was. They could have understood that this Being is the Parent of all.

That realization, had Egypt made it, would have had repercussions. In the long term, it would have stood the test of time as a historic testament to the truth of monotheism. Egypt was the ancient world's greatest power. If the king of that nation, who regarded himself as a god, would come to profess belief in a God to whom he was subject, a Creator of All, that would be impressive indeed. Any future people could look upon those events of the Exodus, and if they ever doubted there was a Creator, could see in those events evidence of this.

But it wasn't just in the long term that there would be repercussions to Egypt's recognition of a creator. There would be repercussions in the short term, also. Because if Egypt understood that there was a Creator of All, and that this Creator viewed the subjugation of one of his children to be a moral travesty, then Pharaoh would be bound, morally, to realize that he really has to let the Israelites go. If God, the Creator, condemned the brutal enslavement of the Israelites, Pharaoh, a subject of the Creator, couldn't really ignore that. As a matter of fact, this would be the fastest and quickest way to engineer the Exodus. If Egypt could only be brought to this recognition…it could all be over very quickly.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

If you look at the Exodus carefully, you will find that, very early on, there was hope of bringing Pharaoh to the brink of this recognition. Before all the plagues, in the very first audience that Moses ever has with Pharaoh, he tells him, very straightforwardly, who this God of the Hebrews really is. He tells him that He's not just a god among gods, but that he is the Creator – the father of all – and then he tells him what this God wants Pharaoh to do:

א כֹּה-אָמַר יְ', אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שַׁלַּח אֶת-עַמִּי, וְיָחֹגּוּ לִי בַּמִּדְבָּר.

'Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.'

The request was just to celebrate in the desert. And Moses, in conversation with Pharaoh just a verse or two later, clarifies that he's really only asking for the Hebrews to leave for three days:

נֵלְכָה נָּא דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים בַּמִּדְבָּר

Let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the wilderness

Now let me ask you: I mean, why did God ask only for this? God would have had the power to compel Pharaoh to agree to the real plan, the freeing of the slaves. Why bother lying and saying you plan on coming back, when really, you plan on leaving forever?

Unless...maybe it wasn't a lie. Now, this is something we talk about in another series of videos and I referenced them before, you can find them linked below. But maybe, had Pharaoh agreed to the three day work holiday request, the Hebrews really would have come back. It would have been a first step. You, Pharaoh, you've just agreed to allow some religious freedom for your slaves. Excellent. And slowly, Pharaoh could be brought around to a key realization: that it wasn't just a local, provincial God that these Hebrews were celebrating with. It was the Creator Himself. And if the God of the Hebrews was really the Creator of All – well, then, Pharaoh and Egypt would be obliged to serve Him as well.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

Okay, but how, you might ask, could Pharaoh have possibly been brought around to recognize the existence of a Creator, in the absence of plagues that would demonstrate that manifestly? How could he have been brought to see this truth in a peaceful kind of way?

I'm speculating here – but I think it's interesting that, in the text of the Torah, we do find that God, way back at the beginning of the Exodus, before any plagues, God gave Moses a single sign by which he could prove his authenticity to Pharaoh. And the strange thing is, the sign doesn't even really seem all that impressive:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְ', אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר. ט כִּי יְדַבֵּר אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה לֵאמֹר, תְּנוּ לָכֶם מוֹפֵת; וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, קַח אֶת-מַטְּךָ וְהַשְׁלֵךְ לִפְנֵי-פַרְעֹה--יְהִי לְתַנִּין.

And God spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, 'When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying: Show a wonder for you; then thou shalt say unto Aaron: Take thy rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it become a serpent.'

So you might say, what's so incredibly special about that sign? I mean, especially in the fact that when Moses and Aaron actually do it, all of Pharaoh's sorcerers go and cast down their own staffs and those become serpents as well. So that, you know, really takes the wind out of the sails of this sign, wouldn't you say?

Except that maybe we haven't actually seen the sign yet. You gotta keep looking:

וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אִישׁ מַטֵּהוּ, וַיִּהְיוּ לְתַנִּינִם; וַיִּבְלַע מַטֵּה-אַהֲרֹן, אֶת-מַטֹּתָם.

For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

Maybe that was the sign. Aaron's staff goes and swallows all the other serpents in the room! That was it! Think of the message to Pharaoh here: Yes, there are many powers out there – but there is one Power to rule them all.

Imagine that Pharaoh had fearlessly drawn the evident, logical conclusion from that sign – the only sign that God had ever given Moses to establish His veracity in Pharaoh's presence: One serpent swallows all the other serpents. One power rules all the other powers! Had Pharaoh come to understand that, it would all be over before it even began! He would have seen that the world contains a God who was the Creator of All – and he would have understood that he, no less than Moses and Aaron and the Hebrews, was a subject of that God, and must obey His Will.

In the Exodus that actually transpired, of course, Pharaoh rejected Moses' words out of hand and didn't pay any heed to this sign. And so, the process of education would need to continue, but now it would continue the hard way. The plagues would come.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

And so now, let's return to the connection between the Jacob's burial story and the Exodus story. As we said before, the burial procession was about a son making a journey to honor his father. And the Exodus story is really about the same thing. The Exodus had started with one request: A request for a journey, a procession, in which a son would honor a father – the way that Father said He wanted to be honored. The son, this time, was Israel, and the Father was God, the Creator. Remember how God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his firstborn child go, so that his child can serve Him… This was a Father coming for His child.

The theory I'm suggesting to you is that the Jacob's burial story really serves as a kind of blueprint for the way the Exodus was supposed to turn out. By comparing the blueprint version of the story, back in the Book of Genesis, with the actual realization of the Passover story in Exodus, we can learn something about what, in the largest of pictures, the Exodus story had been designed to achieve, and what the nation birthed through that story – Israel – is meant to achieve, even today.

Another Father (In Heaven)

In a very real way, the reaction of Joseph's Pharaoh created an opportunity, a precedent, of sorts, for how an Egyptian king might wrestle with a very particular challenge: What do you do when a child you thought was yours expresses an allegiance to another, deeper, Father? And let me explain to you what I mean by putting things this way.

As we saw, the Pharaoh in Joseph's day thought that he had a right to Joseph's loyalty, after all, Joseph had been like a son to him! When Joseph asked permission to leave Egypt because of something he needed to do for his father Jacob, Joseph's Pharaoh had acted heroically in a way. He recognized that Joseph's primary allegiance rightfully belonged to Jacob over him – that, when all is said and done, Jacob was the deeper father here, with a more primary claim on Joseph's service.

But Pharaoh actually did something even more heroic than that. He didn't just allow Joseph to leave, quietly and unobtrusively. He sent an honor guard of chariots and horsemen to accompany him. He wanted to be part of the procession. Why? Because he recognized, at the end of the day, that Jacob was not just the father of Joseph, but a kind of national father, for Egypt, as well – and that Jacob's wishes to be buried in Canaan couldn't be allowed to diminish his status in Egypt's eyes.

If Father wants to be buried in Canaan, we will not take that as a snub, and turn our backs on him. We will honor those wishes. We will be part of the parade too.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

Now, in a deep way, the Pharaoh in the days of Moses was confronted with an almost precisely analogous series of choices.

As we've seen, the original, benevolent Pharaoh in the times of Joseph had treated Joseph like an adoptive son. Ever since then, the vestiges of that relationship had lingered. To some extent, the Egyptian throne continued to look upon the Israelites as its child, but that relationship had decayed. It was as if the loving surrogate father had become an evil and abusive caricature of his former self. He demanded the loyalty of his 'child,' but extended none of the love a father would give to one of his own. The Egyptian throne abused its child and enslaved it, and brutally inured itself to the child's cries for mercy.

Then, one day, Moses came to Pharaoh with news for him. The child Pharaoh thinks is his, has another father as well. A deeper father than Pharaoh. A Heavenly father. This father in Heaven wants His child to go into the desert for a few days to serve Him. It's the first step in redeeming that child.

When Moses came with this request, Moses' Pharaoh should have rightfully looked to Joseph's Pharaoh, for a lesson as to how to deal with that situation. With precedent in hand, he ought to have acted heroically. He ought to have recognized that Israel's primary allegiance rightfully belonged to a deeper father, to Heavenly Father.

As a matter of fact, the Pharaoh of Moses' day should have gone even further. He, like Joseph's Pharaoh, should have recognized that Father in Heaven wasn't just a father of Israel, He was a universal Father, a father even of Egypt. Thus, Pharaoh shouldn't have just "allowed" the Israelites to go into the desert for a few days to honor their Heavenly Father, quietly and unobtrusively. He should have sent an honor guard of chariots and horsemen to accompany the departing Israelites.

After all, it was Egypt's father, too! At the end of the day, Moses' Pharaoh should have made the same calculation Joseph's Pharaoh did: Father's wishes to take the Israelites to Canaan, they can't be allowed to diminish the reverence we Egyptians give to Father in Heaven. If Father wants to do this, we're not take that as a snub, and turn our backs on him. We will honor His wishes. We will be part of the parade.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

Moses' Pharaoh could have done that, but he didn't. In the end, the Pharaoh of Moses' day was not able to muster the honesty, the humility, the courage necessary to recognize that there was a deeper Master than he, with all the implications that would flow from that.

So, when Israel finally did leave Egypt, they would leave all alone. There would be no Egyptian multitudes escorting them out joyously, with pomp and circumstance. There would be no Egyptian horsemen and chariots, gloriously accompanying Israel all the way to water's edge. There would be no Canaanite throngs exclaiming about the wonder of it all.

Except that there would be. The Master of the Universe would see to it that there would be.

In his blindness, Pharaoh thought the chariots and archers were there to pursue his escaping slaves. But that wasn't really their purpose; God would appropriate those chariots and archers for His Own purposes. One way or the other, Egypt's finest would escort Israel, like before, to water's edge. One way or the other, as it was in days of old, Father shall once again ' be honored through Pharaoh and all his army.' If Pharaoh wouldn't be forthcoming in providing that honor, it would be taken from him.

So, centuries after they first made their appearance, the chariots and horsemen of Egypt would indeed show up again. They would come to provide honor for God. But now we understand - it's not their deaths that would provide honor, as we had assumed before, but their accompaniment of Israel that would do this. It was as if God looked out at the scene, at Israel departing Egypt, all alone, and said: Something is missing in this picture. The first time around, there was a great military escort to honor Father. What happened to MY honor guard?

And so God would see to it that the honor guard came:

וַאֲנִי, הִנְנִי מְחַזֵּק אֶת-לֵב מִצְרַיִם, וְיָבֹאוּ, אַחֲרֵיהֶם; וְאִכָּבְדָה בְּפַרְעֹה וּבְכָל-חֵילוֹ, בְּרִכְבּוֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁיו

And as for Me, I shall hereby strengthen the heart of Egypt, so that they shall chase after you. For I shall be honored through Pharaoh and all his army; through his chariots and through his archers (Exodus 14:17).

And not only that, the Canaanite throngs would be back, too. Centuries before, they had exclaimed in amazement at the honor Egypt had given to a universal Father. Now, they would exclaim in trepidation about the honor that Father had taken, brazenly, from a recalcitrant Egypt:

שָׁמְעוּ עַמִּים, יִרְגָּזוּן...נָמֹגוּ, כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי כְנָעַן

The nations heard [what happened to Egypt]; the inhabitants of Canaan shrank away in fear (Exodus 15:14-15).

Those are the words of song Israel would sing at the sea, after their Egyptian pursuers are vanquished. So one way or the other, those Canaanites, they'd be back. They'd look upon Egypt and be amazed – only, this time, they wouldn't see Egypt's joyous celebration of Father, as they had in Joseph's days; instead, tragically, they would see Egypt's destruction.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

The ideal plan was for Egypt to participate in the Exodus as a real player on the grand stage of history. The plan was that they and the Israelites, like long ago, they would form a single, joyous camp, enthusiastically partnering in paying homage to Father. Go back to the burial scene:

וַיַּעַל עִמּוֹ, גַּם-רֶכֶב גַּם-פָּרָשִׁים; וַיְהִי הַמַּחֲנֶה, כָּבֵד מְאֹד

And there went up with him, chariots and archers; and the camp was very great (Genesis 50:9).

Look at that verse. In Jacob's Burial procession, to all eyes, there had been but a single camp; the Israelites and Egyptians were united in a single purpose. That was the way it was supposed to be again, in the days of Israel's Exodus. The tragedy of the Exodus as it actually came to pass was that there was no longer one camp, but two. Look at this verse:

וַיָּבֹא בֵּין מַחֲנֵה מִצְרַיִם, וּבֵין מַחֲנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל

And [the Divine Cloud] came between the Camp of Egypt and the Camp of Israel (Exodus 14:20).

The Egyptians had chosen to pursue the Israelites with malice, instead of with joy. And so, there needed to be two camps, with the Divine Cloud between them, instead of one camp, with the Divine Cloud among them. And therein lies the tragedy brought about through Pharaoh's recalcitrance.

Which brings us to consider the future.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

The parallels between the Jacob's Burial story and the Exodus story seem to suggest, as we've seen, that there was a more ideal way for the Exodus to have played out. There was an Exodus that Might Have Been, as it were – an Exodus in which Jew and gentile would have left Egypt in a shared procession, all in one joyous camp, an Exodus in which freed slaves would be accompanied by an honor guard of former oppressors, all joining together in a procession to honor Father.

But if the Exodus That Might Have Been did not actually occur, why does it matter to us? Generally, historians do not spend all that much time debating what could have happened but didn't. Why should we?

The answer is: Because we aren't historians.

Judaism has always insisted that the Torah wasn't written to merely be a history book. Instead, the Torah is meant to be a guidebook. Sometimes the Torah guides by telling us laws. Sometimes it guides by telling us stories about our past. The stories are relevant not just because they once happened. They are relevant because, like law, they can help shape us into our best possible selves.

The Exodus That Might Have Been is hinted to in the Torah because it guides us. It teaches us that the Exodus was not just about freeing slaves, or just about a nation that happened to gain independence through divine intervention. It was, actually, about something else, too. It was about a procession designed to honor the Father in Heaven - a joint procession.

Just like the burial procession of Jacob, the Exodus, in its perfect form, was supposed to be a procession including multitudes. In the end, the Exodus from Egypt brought us only part of the way to that vision. Because the procession that departed Egypt was a shadow of what it might have been. We were the only ones who embarked on that journey. What of all the others?

It will be the destiny of Jew and Gentile to one day realize the promise of that journey as it should have taken place: to march side by side and proclaim in unison the Oneness of a Father that we all share.

The prophets of Israel would speak often of that destiny. If we read the words of those prophets, we can't help but hear in their words the longing to complete the Exodus' unfinished journey:

נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: עוֹד אֲקַבֵּץ עָלָיו, לְנִקְבָּצָיו.

Thus says YHVH, who gathers in all the dispersed people of Israel: 'I will gather still others to God, beside those of [Israel] that are gathered!' (ibid., 56:8).

Isaiah speaks of a time when God will 'gather in' to the Land of Canaan all the dispersed people of Israel, but when He does so, He will gather others, too. They'll all come in a grand procession:

וּבְנֵי הַנֵּכָר, הַנִּלְוִים עַל-יְהוָה לְשָׁרְתוֹ, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֶת-שֵׁם יְהוָה… וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל-הַר קָדְשִׁי, וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי

Also the Gentiles, that join themselves to accompany YHVH, to serve Him, and to love the name of YHVH… I will bring them all to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer (ibid., 56:7).

The last time there was a procession like this, the Israelites had traveled all alone. Egyptians had pursued them, but had not joined them. And therefore, separation was the order of the day: Israel needed to be separated by the Divine Cloud from those that pursued them. But in the procession of the future, separation shall be a thing of the past:

וְאַל-יֹאמַר בֶּן-הַנֵּכָר, הַנִּלְוָה אֶל-יְהוָה לֵאמֹר, הַבְדֵּל יַבְדִּילַנִי יְהוָה, מֵעַל עַמּוֹ

Let not the child of a Gentile, who wishes to accompany [those who are] with YHVH, say: 'YHVH has surely separated me from His people'... (Isaiah 56:3).

So once again, there would be a great procession, one overwhelmingly large camp, devoted to the honor of Father. It would be a journey that would redeem the missed opportunities of Israel's very first journey, the Exodus.

The journey taken at the end of days is going to mirror the journey that should have been taken at the original Passover, at the beginning of days for Israel, at Israel's birth. This time, in the future, all nations would join together, to honor the Father of All.

May we speedily see the day.

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