Moses has demonstrated the signs Pharaoh demanded of him as a messenger of G‑d. Several of the destined ten plagues have already struck Egypt and the stubborn king is prepared to bargain with Moses. "Go bring offerings to your G‑d in the land (Egypt),"1 he proposes. Moses refuses. Israel must take a three-day journey into the desert there to worship G‑d. The three-day journey is repeated a number of times in the Exodus account.

Why wasn't Pharaoh's reasonable offer acceptable to Moses? Moses had not yet demanded the unconditional freedom from slavery — that thought had not even been broached to Pharaoh. Why then the insistence on worshipping in the desert instead of in Egypt?

Why then the insistence on worshipping in the desert instead of in Egypt?The role of environment, atmosphere, and social climate in even such intensely personal matters as religion is virtually inestimable. Few can withstand the influence of surroundings and uphold ideals not shared by the many. A religion for all the people, in Moses' own words, "our youthful and our aged, our sons and our daughters," must be fostered in an atmosphere conducive to that religion, if it is to thrive. An Egypt wallowing in immorality (how many lives were the price of those impressive pyramids?) cannot be a cradle for Judaism. Jews could not serve G‑d fully and properly in an Egypt. Even an arid desert is preferable in its desolation to the parody of civilization offered by Egypt.

Companionship, shared experience, sympathetic surroundings, example, community participation — while these are not indispensable or particularly necessary for Moses, are an invaluable element in imparting a way of living to men of lesser stature. Certainly in transmitting Judaism to our children we must seek and create the most favorable circumstances, in our homes and in our communities.