How Involved Was G‑d?

In the portion of Bo, G‑d tells Moses that after the Jewish people eat their Paschal lambs on their last night in Egypt, "I will pass through Egypt on that night, and I will strike down every firstborn... I will see the blood [on your houses] and I will pass over you..."1

Earlier, however, when Moses warned Pharaoh about the impending death of the firstborn, he says, "So says G‑d, 'around midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn in Egypt will die.' "2

There are different expressions that G‑d uses in these verses, and they seem to be almost opposites. First, G‑d tells Pharaoh, "I will go out in the midst of Egypt," which sounds like He will be involved in it. And then He says, "I will pass through Egypt," which means that He will participate in passing, without much involvement.

When G‑d continues to tell about the death of the firstborn, He also seems to be saying opposite things. First, He says to Pharaoh, "And every firstborn in Egypt will die." which sounds like it will happen automatically. Then He says to Moses, "I will strike down every firstborn in Egypt," which sounds like He will be involved directly.

Then G‑d tells Moses, "I will see the blood and I will pass over you," He again seems to be involved.

Was G‑d active or passive? How do we reconcile these verses? And finally, what lesson can we take from here with regards to our relationship with other Jewish people?

Involved and Not Involved

On the night of Pesach, there were two things happening simultaneously. In one, G‑d was completely invested, and the second was done just in passing.

The main thing G‑d was doing was saving the Jewish people from Egypt. He was personally involved in that, as He said, "I will go out in the midst of Egypt," and "I will see the blood and I will pass over you."

Rashi3 explains that "I will pass through Egypt," means that it will be in passing, ''like a king who passes through from place to place, and in one pass, in one second, everyone is smitten." From this is understood that, although the next words, "I will strike down every firstborn," sound like G‑d will be personally involved, it actually means that it will happen in passing. So the death of the firstborn was automatic, as G‑d told Pharaoh, "every firstborn will die," just like that, in passing.

So G‑d went out in the midst of the lowest and most impure of all places, Egypt, to protect and save each and every Jew. Rashi4 says that even if a Jew was in an Egyptian home, G‑d saved him as well.

We see from here the great love G‑d has for every one of us, even one that is at the lowest level. In fact, it is related about a certain Jew that, on the night before the Exodus, while everyone was with their families celebrating the first Seder, he was hanging out with an Egyptian. Nevertheless, G‑d went into that lowly Egyptian home and protected that Jew as well.

Be Like G‑d!

The lesson for us here is that we should try to help another Jew, whether physically or spiritually, disregarding any judgement about them and their religious status.

One might ask, "Am I obligated to go out of my religious environment to bring a Jew closer to G‑d? If he comes to me, I will learn Torah with him, but I don't want to go to him and his less holy environment."

The message here is that we should emulate G‑d, who went out of His comfort zone to save Jews in Egypt. We, too, must leave our comfort zones, helping another Jew physically or spiritually. This is true even for a Jew that is not at all involved in religious practice, or even if he is in the lowest of places. Of course, this must all be done in accordance with keeping Torah law.5

As a Chabad rabbi, I saw firsthand how precious is every individual. Even though it meant going to a city like Temecula, Cal., which had little Jewish infrastructure, it was extremely rewarding. Every neshamah (soul) is invaluable. When you reveal the spark within a Jew, you begin to understand why G‑d loves every Jew. Because, in truth, there is no lower level Jew, even the one who is in the Egyptians home during the Seder is a good and beautiful soul. And if you show him love, you will uncover the beauty within, and his neshamah will shine bright.

May our efforts to reach every Jew be successful, and may we see every neshamah shine. This will surely lead to the coming of Moshiach, when every Jew will be redeemed. May it happen soon. The time has come.