Who Owes Whom?

Friday, 13 January, 2023 - 7:06 am

It’s a new secular year and it may be time to start thinking about our tax bill. In the United States, taxes are generally owed in arrears (though employers may take it off employees’ paychecks).

The question often arises: Who owes whom? Some citizens owe the government money and others are due a refund. There are so many factors involved that even accountants can get confused. And, the laws keep changing.

In essence, however, the debate rages on. Individual cases vary, but the financial and philosophical query applies to all. Are citizens indebted to their government, or is the state indebted to its citizens?


In this week’s parsha Shemot we read about Hashem choosing Moshe to deliver the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage.  In his famous dialogue with G-d at the burning bush, Moshe questioned whether the Jewish people really merited redemption. According to Rashi, G-d’s response is encoded in the words, “When you take the people out of Egypt, you will worship G-d on this mountain.” 

What kind of answer is that? Moshe is wondering what merits the Jews posses to worthy of miraculous intervention. G-d responds by talking about the future! How does that answer the question?!

Rather, Hashem agreed with Moshe that they were currently undeserving. But, Hashem argues, there are other justifications for their salvation. As G-d puts it: “I have a great thing dependent on this Exodus, for at the end of three months from their Exodus from Egypt they are destined to receive the Torah on this mountain.”

In other words, G-d liberated the Jews from slavery not because of what they had already done, but on account of what they would do in the future.  G-d issued a spiritual credit card to the Jewish people.

If Hashem had only looked at the current status of the Jewish people it would have been case over and they would have been forever dissolved into Egyptian society.  In His infinite kindness, G-d used His watch and not ours. He looked at our future virtues and commitments – and invested in us.


In life we are often wondering what G-d owes us.

Perhaps we also need to ask ourselves what we owe G-d.

Comments on: Who Owes Whom?
There are no comments.