Haggadah: The First Cracks
Moshe and Aharon delivered their message and then, in blatant disrespect, turned their backs to the King and left the room. They changed the realities of Egypt: “Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long will this be a snare for us? Send out the men that they may serve God, their Lord! Do you not know that Egypt is lost?’” (Exodus 10:7) Despite that God had made their hearts stubborn (Verse 1), the servants stood up to their King, acknowledged God, and spoke what until that moment was unspoken, Egypt was gone.
The same scene that includes the first cracks in the Egyptian fortress and the first Egyptian acknowledgement of God as the Lord of Israel, includes the first mention of Israel’s future: “So that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them – that you may know that I am God.” (Verse 2)
The servitude began as Israel’s effort to prove their loyalty to Pharaoh and Egypt. They experienced the first cracks in their Egyptian identity when God separated between them and the Egyptians during the plagues. Pharaoh understood, “Pharaoh sent and behold, of the livestock of Israel not even one had died. Pharaoh’s heart became stubborn and he did not send out the people.” (9:7) He did not send them out because he understood that they needed to be ‘sent out,’ and would not yet leave on their own. They were still Egyptian. It is only in the opening scene of this portion when Israel begins to develop an identity of their own, a story uniquely theirs. It is also the first time when the Egyptians spoke of Israel as having a God of their own.
It is the beginning of the exodus. It is the beginning of Israel reclaiming its identity. The Pesach Offering and the Mitzvah of Tefillin can only develop once Israel has a sense of its own identity.