“Listen heaven! I will speak! Earth hear the words of my mouth! My lesson shall drop like rain, my saying shall flow down like the dew – like a downpour on the herb, like a shower on the grass.”

Hang on a minute. The writer here is  getting ahead of himself. What on earth is he doing quoting from Ha’azinu, which comes right at the end of Devarim, when we have only just reached Va-eira and Bo? The reason is that the man who is speaking these most poetic of words with the authority of a great leader is the same man who in the first chapters of Shemot tells God that he is slow and awkward of speech and most unsuited to representing the Israelites before Pharaoh, never mind to leading a whole people. And the amazing journey from stammering reluctance to majestic eloquence which he has just embarked on will be mirrored by the the journey made by people he will lead.

But what of Va-eira and Bo? Things do not seem to go very well for Moses and Aaron. Despite a succession of requests, threats and plagues, Pharaoh remains obstinate. It seems that Moses is unable to sway him. Does the sovereign of Egypt not understand how the plagues undermine the idolatrous basis of his rule? The sacred waters of the Nile are turned to blood and infested with frogs. The hail blots out the even more sacred sun, and it will soon be blotted out again by three days of ‘palpable darkness’. When Pharaoh does finally give way, it will be at the visitation of a horror similar to that which he inflicted upon the Israelites upon his own people, i.e. the death of the firstborn.

The journey to freedom, both its liberties and its responsibilities, is set to begin. Come and join us at its outset this Saturday at 10.30. Liz will be lighting the way.