“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” (Osama bin Laden)
This is not just about horses, of course. Nor even about successful sports teams or countries. It is even true about deities.
The plagues struck Egypt, but in the nature of people everywhere, the attraction to strength overcame the natural rejection of outside influences. The evidence is found in the Torah itself.
Pharaoh’s courtiers said to him, “How long shall this one be a snare to us? Let the men go to worship the LORD their God! Are you not yet aware that Egypt is lost?” (Ex. 10:7)
This is a strange verse – what is the meaning of this word that is translated as “snare”? And why is Egypt “lost”?
When the Torah uses a word more than once, there is a connection between the incidences. And these connections can help us understand the meaning of the verse.
The word translated as “snare” (Transliterated, it is “Mokaish”) is only found three other places, but the meaning in each case is very clear:
They shall not remain in your land, lest they cause you to sin against Me; for you will serve their gods—and it will prove a snare to you. (Ex. 23:33)
Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst. (Ex. 34:12)
You shall destroy all the peoples that the LORD your God delivers to you, showing them no pity. And you shall not worship their gods, for that would be a snare to you. (Deut. 7:16)
In each of these cases, the word clearly refers to a spiritual seduction, the attraction of other gods and other peoples.
If this is correct, then we can much more easily understand our original verse: Pharaoh’s advisers are telling him that the Jewish deity is attracting adherents from within the Egyptian people themselves! This would be an especial threat since Pharaoh himself was a deity!
The plagues served to become an attack on Egypt from within, an attractant for the hearts and minds of the Egyptians themselves, in the same way that living in Canaan would, in the future, threaten our connection to our own G-d.
And thus it proved. When the people left the land, many Egyptians came with them:
Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them. Ex. 12:38
Osama bin Laden may not have been a good man. But he was not always wrong.
[another @iwe and @susanquinn production]