Torah Portion: Bo (Come) Exodus 10:1-13:16
HafTorah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
Tonight we look at the Torah section Bo, meaning come. It covers the last three plagues brought on Egypt and the setting up of the holiday of Pesach. To begin with I would like to share with you something I read this week that I feel is very important to each of us. What determines the greatness of a people, family or nation? I would like us to consider this hypothetical situation. Suppose you are the head of a group of people, like your family or your nation. You call them together as they are about to go free after a long time as slaves. What do you say? What do you speak to them about, freedom, or the vision before them or do you warn them of the dangers ahead?
Here in Bo we see three times what this great leader, Moses tells his people on the cusp of freedom. Three times or more Moses stresses the children, their education and their future, Shemot, Exodus, 12:36-27, 13:8 and 13:14. He spoke of our duty to educate our children, to make sure that they are aware of their distant destiny.
So here we see a people, in fact the only people in history, to predicate their survival on education. This is what Moses saw as the principle that would sustain their nation. He did not speak of monuments but of building schools. So of all the ancient civilizations only Israel has survived. This world is not changed by power or force but by teaching our children. Teaching them our faith, which has to stress the dignity of all people, the need for kindness and compassion and other truths. We have to teach them the lessons of history. Spiritually we were all slaves to Pharaoh. For only those who remember the bitterness of slavery can pass on the blessing of freedom. We must not think that elections hold the answer to man kind’s problems, or replacing a tyrant will bring change. All it brings is a change of faces of those in power.
G-d taught Moses that the real challenge does not lie in gaining freedom but in sustaining it. That can only happen as we, and each future generation, pass on to our children what it was like to be a slave in Egypt. This is not something that can be passed on for our schools to do but must begin with us, parents, family, and friends. We all have a role to play. We are responsible to pass along our faith by what we say, what we do and how we live our life everyday, what we talk about to our children. (Proverbs 29:18) People perish without vision. This world can’t be the source of that vision for us and our future generations. It must be us. We have been entrusted with the words of life.
Now to another point here. If you look at the name of this Torah section it is Bo. This word is found in the first verse of chapter 10. The surprise here is that, go, is not the meaning of the word. The actual meaning of the word is come. Does this change how we read this verse and what it says to us spiritually? Yesterday Jean and I were getting our hair cut and I was talking with the man cutting our hair about this verse and the mistranslation of the word. He, being Jewish, was interested in discussing the Torah portion and gave me a good picture of how this changes the meaning. He said it was like him saying to his child, “Go clean your room” or saying, “Come clean your room.” The latter speaks of him, in the room, waiting for his son to come join him and clean the room.
This is pretty much what G-d is saying to Moses here, “Come on in Moses, We have something to share with Pharaoh.” Now this was not the first time Moses had been with Pharaoh. But this time Moses was going into the heart of darkness. Here Moses is coming face to face with the very face of darkness. Remember Pharaoh saw himself as god, in fact, as the Sun god Ra. These next two plagues would bring darkness, the opposite of the light of the sun. So, Moses, with G-d, was challenging the ego of Pharaoh, the ego that told him he was all powerful.
Maybe G-d was saying to Moses, “Don’t worry, I have this. Come in with Me and see My power.” G-d speaks to each of us the same message each time He calls us to take a step which may seem more than we can comprehend in our limited vision. But always remember whatever lies before you G-d is already there waiting for you and will get you through whatever it is you are facing. It does not mean it will be easy or end like you thought but it for sure will end for your betterment, for your good. He is already there. He is calling each of us to come. We can rest in that.
My question this week had to do with haste. Can this be a good thing in our life? It comes from the apparent haste with which Israel left Egypt. Exodus 12:34, 39. First, was there a reason to be in such a hurry? Probably not. G-d had already won this battle. So what is the rush? Think back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning” G-d created time. In fact it is the very first thing He blesses. So how are we to relate to time? We are not to waste a second. When G-d presents us with an opportunity to do His specific will in a matter it is imperative that we do it and do it without hesitation. We must never let our own propensity to wait rob us of our time to do G-d’s will