The Wisdom of Israel, by Edwin Collins, , at sacred-texts.com
And the Eternal said unto Moses, "Why dost thou cry unto me?" Here, says the Midrash, is another saying (Ps. lxv. 2), "Oh, Thou who hearest prayer, right up to * Thy very presence all flesh shall come." Rabbi Judah says in the name of Rabbi Eliezar, "If a poor man approach a human being he will not be listened to at once, but if a rich man wants to say something he is received and listened to at once." The Holy One, blessed be He, is not like this, but before Him ALL are equal; women and men, slaves and servants, poor and rich. You know that Moses, our teacher, was the greatest of all the prophets; yet the Scripture puts him and his prayers on the same level with the prayers of the poorest man. It is written (Ps. xc. 1), "Prayer of Moses the man of God," and (Ps. cii. 1), "Prayer of the poor, when his spirit is overwhelmed and he poureth out his meditation before the All Present One." In each case it is called a prayer [heard by God], to show that in prayer before the Omnipresent ALL are equal. But the
verse from Exodus quoted shows this even more forcibly. When Israel went forth from Egypt, Pharaoh pursued them, "and Pharaoh drew near," "and they cried unto the Eternal" (Exod. xiv. 10). Moses also began to pray unto the Omnipresent, but the Holy One said unto Moses: "Why dost thou stand and pray? My children have already prayed and I have heard their prayer. . . ."
But why did the Holy One, blessed be He, lead them into the terrible position in which they were: the sea in front, the enemy behind, and the mountains and the wilderness shutting them in? The drawing near of Pharaoh made them draw near to God * in repentance and contrition—they even grieved for the death of the first born of Egypt—and this was what God willed. In love He afflicted them, and in warm desire for their prayers; to draw them near unto Himself.
"To what may this be likened?" says Rabbi Joshua ben Levi. "To a certain king who was on a journey, and he heard the cry of a princess: 'I beg thee deliver me from the hand of these robbers.' And when the king heard, he came to her rescue.
"And after many days he thought of her, and wished to marry her, and he longed for her to speak to him again. But it pleased her not to do so. What did he? He sent his servants to pretend to be robbers, † so that she might
remember him and again cry to him for help, and that he might hear the voice that was so dear to him. And when the supposed robbers came upon her, she thought of her deliverer and began to call out for the king. Then the king said unto her, 'Thus, I was longing to hear thy voice.'"
In like manner, when Israel was in Egypt they began to cry out, and they looked to God, depending on His help. . . . And the Holy One began to bring them out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. But He wished to hear their voice again and draw them near unto Himself with the same feeling of entire dependence on Him that had made them cry to Him before. So He caused Pharaoh to pursue after them and to cause them to draw nigh unto Him. Then "the children of Israel cried unto the Lord." In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, said, "Thus I wished to hear your voice," as it is written (Song of Sol. ii.), "Oh my dove that art in the clefts of the rock . . . let me hear thy voice,"—a voice, any voice, is not written, but thy voice; just that same voice that I heard in Egypt (not the voice of a great prophet interceding for them, but the voice of the whole people crying out in entire dependence on God and perfect trust in Him), and when they prayed, the Holy One said unto Moses, "Why dost thou stand and pray; their prayer has already anticipated thy prayers."
37:* ad, the Hebrew word used in this verse of the Psalm, means "right up to," "into," and the meaning is weakened if we translate it as if it were el, "to," as in the A. V.
38:* There is in the original a clever play on the word hikrib, taken transitively and intransitively, which can hardly be reproduced in English.
38:† There are several variants of this Parable, and from one of them I take this trait. In the version from which the remainder is rendered, the king "sends robbers."