Who has access to God? This question looms large at the start of Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16), in which Moses asks permission for the Hebrews to go and worship God. Moses insists that everyone, regardless of age or sex, be allowed to pray, but Pharoah is only willing to let the men go. Perhaps deriving from Pharaoh’s misguided attempts to oppress primarily the Hebrew males or in keeping with Egyptian sensibilities that only a small group have access to God, this is the final straw (or pretext) before the plagues begin in earnest.
It takes a number of years — and some might rightly say we are still working through gender equality in prayer — for Moses to win out. Judaism loses the exclusive and intercessory nature of Egyptian-God relations and creates a direct pathway to the Divine. Who has access to God? Anyone who chooses to use it.
– Rabbi Aaron Meyer