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{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

It may not flow the expected way when an angel appears with a message from God, but Pharaoh wouldn’t have been surprised by the conversation. Gideon responded to an angelic greeting with a challenge, “Oh, my master, if God be with us, why then is all this befallen us? Where are all His wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying: ‘Did not God bring us up from Egypt?’ but now God has cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian (Judges 6:12).” His question resonates far more than does the angel’s response: “Go in this as your might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian; have I not sent you?”

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I can hear Pharaoh chuckling over Gideon’s challenge, “I told you so!” He did! “See that bad things await you (Exodus 10:10).” Pharaoh’s warning implied Gideon’s question, “Is God always going to punish people who cause His people to suffer? Your people will regularly mention the Exodus and they will wonder when suffering and waiting for similar miracles?” I’m grateful for the Gideon story reminding us that not just wicked Pharaohs, but even one of the great Judges of Israel can wonder, “Where is our Exodus?”

One of the classic Talmudic commentators, Rabbeinu Yonah, adds, “Where is the Exodus?” to our daily prayer, ‘Restoration of Justice.’ He comments, “How can you expect us to obey Your law when we live in a world without the Divine justice of the Exodus (Berachot 19b-Rif; s.v. ‘haTo’im’).”

We’ll continue to wonder together with Gideon, Rabbeinu Yonah, and countless confused children, as long as we look back to the Exodus for its miracles. Pharaoh’s warning reverberates in the question, haunting us into stifling the question, reassuring our children by promising them a future miracle even greater than the Exodus.

I hear the angel’s response to Gideon, “Go in this as your might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian; have I not sent you,” as a lesson in the real Exodus miracle, “Moses, the man, was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the eyes of the people (11:3).” In the final scene just before the actual exodus, the verse describes how the Egyptians perceived Moses. There’s no mention of God or His awesome signs or wonders. Only the real miracle, Moses, “the man,” becoming great, just as the angel redirects Gideon’s challenge onto the young judge, “your might,” and, “have I not sent you.” We describe the former slaves courageously preparing their Paschal offering as, “haGadol,” their greatness. When we reach back to the Exodus, we reach, not for signs and wonders, but for those moments when Moses, the slaves, and Gideon, touched their own greatness. We want our Exodus, our opportunity to achieve greatness.

Where is our Exodus? If the question is about miraculous salvation and the punishment of our enemies, I have no answer. If the question is a quest for experiencing greatness, the answer is in the first instructions presented to the people on the cusp of freedom, “This is for you (12:2),” to achieve greatness. The Mitzvot are introduced as the keys to touch our greatness, to find our own Exodus.

Each time we chant, “A memorial of the Exodus from Egypt (Friday Night Kiddush),” we aspire to experiencing opportunities for touching greatness. It is not about a world of grand signs and wonders, only about the miraculous possibilities of our existence.

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