Shemot – Brickmakers

The main occupation of the Jews during their intense slavery in Egypt was as brickmakers. As the verse (Ex.1:14) says, “And they embittered their lives with hard labor, with mortar and bricks and all kinds of labor in the field, and all the work that they forced upon them was crushing labor.”  The Talmud (Sota 11B) explains that the slavery began with mortar and bricks, continued on to work in the field, and from there to all kinds of crushing labor.  The Jews had to be tricked into this; first Pharoah himself got involved, and then once the Jews threw themselves into it, Pharoah told them, “This is the amount of bricks that you must provide every day.”  The involvement of Moshe and Aharon only came much later in the slavery, when they approached Pharoah and told him, “Let my people go.”

What was Pharoah’s real aim in forcing the Jews to make bricks?  Pharoah was a master of the occult arts (witch craft).  He knew how to identify holy energy when he saw it, and he saw it in the Jews.  His goal was to use this holy Jewish energy to build Egypt.  Jewish energy is supposed to be used in the land of Israel, which is a land of plenty of stones, and building takes place there with stones.  However, Egypt did not possess stone quarries, so it was necessary to build with bricks. So, Pharoah’s main intention was to capitalize on Jewish energy to build Egypt using bricks.

However, that arouses a question: Pharoah could have achieved the same goal by using Jewish labor to import stones into Egypt for building purposes.  The fact that he did not do so, instead preferring bricks, indicates that there was a certain advantage to bricks over stone.  We can understand this advantage by comparing stones, which are created by God, to bricks, which are a man-made material.  On the one hand, stones are the lowest of all creations, so that when Godliness shines even into the mineral level, of which stones are a representative, we know that Godliness illuminates even the lowest level.  That is why the holy Temple was built with stone – to indicate that there in the Temple, Godliness penetrated to the lowest levels.  However, even the two Temples were eventually destroyed, so that indicates that they did not ultimately fulfill the desire of God to dwell in the lower worlds…

The brick-making process required not only that the Jews gather and form the bricks, but that they also put them in a kiln and “fire” them.  It is the heat and firing process that turn the bricks into very hard and usable form.  At that point, they may be used for building, because before that, they will either crumble or dissolve.  The Jews themselves underwent a similar process during the slavery in Egypt – the fire and heat of the intense slavery is what turned them into a nation deserving to receive the Torah and be one with God.  What that shows is that stone, insofar as it is the lowest of creations, is not a sufficient material for the ultimate expression of Godliness down here in this lowest of worlds.  It is necessary for the physical world itself to undergo transformation, similar to the process of transforming straw and mud into bricks. When even the physical world is transformed, it is because Godliness has penetrated the last detail of creation. Pharoah, aware of this, sought to utilize this uniquely Jewish insight for his own nation-building.  He sought to siphon off the holy energy for his own occult uses.

Every Jew is a “brick maker” at heart – all of us face trials by fire and heat, and the point of that is to transform us into Godly beings, radiating and expressing Godliness in the world.

For more details and explanation, go to

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 6, Pp 16-25

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