people believed. They accepted the message that G-d had
granted special Providence to the Israelites and that He
had seen their misery. They bowed their heads and prostrated
themselves (4:31). Following the deaths of Yaakov,
Yosef and the brothers, the Jewish condition rapidly worsened.
Mistrust, labor taxes, slavery, and mysterious deaths, followed by an open policy of extermination. No wonder the Jewish people rejoiced upon the arrival of Moshe. People in despair interpret almost anything as a sign that things will get better. This tendency to grope for a way out of a terrible predicament helps explain
why corrupt leaders often gain the sway of the people. They
make one simple promise. The future will be better. Yet
soon afterwards the attitude of the Jewish people changed
and changed radically. No longer was Moshe the savior of
the Jewish people, rather he was now the cause of their
problems. When they were leaving Pharaoh the foremen encountered Moses and Aharon waiting to meet them. Let G-d look at you and be your judge they said. You have destroyed our reputation with Pharaoh and his advisors. You have placed a sword to kill us in their hands (5:20-21). It is truly quite remarkable to go from hero to villain in just 21 verses.
What happened? Simply put Moshe actually tried to implement G-ds plan for changing the terrible condition of the Jewish people. People may want conditions to improve but are often unwilling to exert even minimal effort on their own part. Moshe came and brought the good news of the impending redemption and the people expected immediate redemption. What were the Jewish people willing to do to help bring about redemption? Apparently not enough. There is no record in the Torah of the Jews doing anything themselves. They relied on others to do the work for them. Throughout the negotiations with Pharaoh and the ten plagues the Jewish people are totally passive, unwilling to lift a hand or even a finger to help. In fact even the elders of Israel who G-d commanded Moshe to gather for his mission to Pharaoh are nowhere to be found when the time actually comes to demand Pharaoh change his policies. Our Sages in Midrash state simply but tragically that they just slipped away.
When the goings became tough the complainers were out in full force. Moshes initial meeting with Pharaoh had not gone well. Instead of granting their request to let my people leave so they can sacrifice to Me in the desert (5:1) Pharaoh gave new orders to the people to make the work heavier for the men, and make sure they do it. Then they will stop paying attention to false ideas (5:9). Needless to say instead of directing their anger at Pharaoh who was the real cause of their misery, the Jews directed their anger towards those who were actually trying to help. Despite the fact that the people did believe in G-d and despite their knowledge that Moshe was G-ds messenger they had no trust in Moshe, only complaints. After all he could not redeem them painlessly. Yet redemption does not come without effort and the inevitable setbacks. And it surely does not come if people do not act and instead rely on their leaders to do all the work for them. Thus the Jewish people could not be redeemed until in an act of defiance they slaughtered a lamb, the same lamb that was a god to the Egyptian people. Without decisive action the slave mentality would have been so deep as to make the exodus impossible.
Our rabbis point out that only one in five Jews were able to take such decisive action. The other 80% were in a state of inertia unable to act in a time of crisis thus being lost to the Jewish people forever. Belief in redemption is nice but ultimately meaningless without concrete action. G-d desires nothing more than to be able to redeem the Jewish people. But He cant do it without us (kveyachol). Let us lend a hand to help. Shabbat Shalom!