If given the hypothetical choice to be born as the next monarch of a kingdom centuries ago, at the height of their power, or to be born into a middle class family this century, what would you choose?
In making this decision it might be helpful to remember that the lack of hygiene, electricity, medicine, privacy, modern comforts and world stability among others. Being a sovereign of old might not be so attractive after all.
In fact, many are so comfortable with their lives at the moment that they wouldn’t wish to be born royal even these days. Being born into a regal family in the present day has much prestige, little power but many burdens.
Modern sovereigns have to balance being relatable and relevant while still being dignified and unbending. Uniting rulers past and present, is the divide and disconnect they must have with the ordinary citizens.
In the Torah portion of Va’era, we see the vindication of Moses; his prophecies implemented and his trust regained. Through the series of plagues, the eventual exodus has begun. Following the suffering of an exile more than two centuries old, this will be the turning point for the small nation they finally will be redeemed.
Moses is quite an enigmatic character though. The people know scant little about the personality of their redeemer. Never having been elected, never having been nominated, Moses did not seem to be the likely choice for a leader. Adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had been brought up in the Egyptian nobility. Growing up as a prince of Egypt he could only see his people’s suffering from afar. From the slaves’ point of view, Moses was detached and aloof, akin to every monarch in history.
How could he understand them?
There is a unique advantage a leader can have in connecting with their nation by means of common traditions and heritage. Moses, however, had none. He never went to the same schools, never ate the same foods and never shared in their sufferings.
How could it be that the one Israelite who had the least connection to them and had no connection to their sufferings was the one chosen to be their leader?
There is a famous fable of a scorpion convincing a frog to let it ride together across a river. The scorpion argued that it wouldn’t sting the frog because doing so would mean certain death to both of them.
Midway across the river the scorpion succumbs to its nature and dooms them both by stinging the frog. With its dying breath it says “what can I do that’s just who I am”.
How often do you hear those same words uttered by yourself?
How often do you put yourself in a box and shut it closed. A comfort zone where your activities fit a routine minimising risk, with a sense of security, but will stop you from reaching your next level?
The Jews in Egypt had developed a slave mentality; they found themselves in a box from which they could not escape by themselves.
Some commentaries therefore explain that the reason Moses had to be brought up in royalty was to have the ability to escape that mentality of inner and outer bondage. Moses never had that inescapable box; only he, therefore, was able to rescue them.
The Hebrew word for Egypt, mitzrayim, can also mean limitations, maytzarim.
The exodus from Egypt is a paradigm for taking yourselves out of your own self imposed limitations. Moses bequeathed to his people the power to rid the slave mentality and experience a true liberation.
May we all experience our own redemption from our maytzarim!