Finally, after being tormented by 7 plagues and after being begged by his servants Paroh relents. “and he said to them, “Go, worship the Lord your G-D” (10:8). The news they had been waiting for, free at last. The Jewish people would be free from the oppression of Mitzrayim and would finally be able to go and independently worship Hashem. However, Paroh continues with a strange question, “Who and who are going?” (ibid.). What is the meaning of this question? If he is sending them away wouldn’t that include the entirety of the Jewish people?
The Ohr HaChayim Hakadosh explains that Paroh had a very limited perspective of who was necessary for the journey. If the Jewish people were requesting to go and worship Hashem, Paroh reasoned, that must by definition include just a fraction of the population. Afterall, who is needed in holy service and worship? His question was rhetorical, “who is going, you only really need to send the worshippers”. Or as the Chasam Sofer explains Parohs sentiment, “is it really the way of children and women to give offerings to G-D?!”
Moshe responds by saying that regarding the Jewish People, his reasoning was incorrect. “With our youth and with our elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our cattle we will go, for it is a festival of the Lord to us” (10:9).
While Paroh had reached a point that he was willing to let the Jewish people go to serve Hashem, he was unable to recognize or accept the fact the entirety of Am Yisrael was and is essential and indispensable for avodas Hashem. Perhaps it is for this reason that the very first mitzvah that am Yisrael are told to fulfil is the mitzvah of the korban pesach which is offered by “the entire congregation of the community of Israel” (12:6) and which is joyously enjoyed specifically within the Jewish household in the context of the family unit (12:3). This is truly one of the beautiful elements of Am Yisrael. Every single Jew is precious in the service of Hashem.