Bo: Mission possible

Bo: Mission possible

Temple Beth Sholom, Fair Lawn, Conservative

The Torah repeats over and over that God took us out of Egypt. But in Parashat Bo, we see that, actually, Pharaoh expelled the Hebrews from his kingdom.

We understand that would never have happened if it wasn’t for God’s intervention. But by reading the text closely, we’ll see something strange: Not only did Pharaoh order the Hebrews to leave, he added two instructions, he gave them two tasks to fulfill. The Torah reports of Pharaoh, “He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said: Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go worship the Lord as you said… and may you bring a blessing upon me also.” (Exodus 12:31-32).

Amazingly, the king of Egypt is telling us that the purpose of our liberation is to worship and to bless. He is reminding us about what God had in mind when He established a covenant with Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing… and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12 : 2-3 )

So it is logical to ask ourselves: Are we fulfilling our mission? Do we have a relationship with God in which we say “thank you” for all the blessings He bestowed upon us? Are we a blessing for others: family members, employers and employees, our nation, or the Jewish People?

Egypt was a place for slavery. The purpose of its lifestyle was to build monuments. It was a civilization defined by its material objects. Ironically, Pharaoh, the master of that people, was the one to send us the message: “leave this place, go away and build a society of kindness, justice, compassion and love. Use your freedom to be free of enslaving materialism, and, by following God’s instructions, build a society that will became a model for others.”

The Torah is clear on this issue. We read: “See, I have imparted to you laws and rules… for you to abide by.… Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say: ‘Surely that great nation is a wise and discerning people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him? Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4: 5-8)

Sometimes it is normal to “hear voices,” like in our Parasha. We can hear Pharaoh and Moses (three times he talked about teaching the children ) saying to us: “Don’t let anti-Semitism keep you Jewish. In any place you go and live, let Jewish education and observance be the source that shapes yours and the next generation’s identity. Fulfill the mission and become God’s partner in making this a better world. Humanity still needs the Jewish People to become a blessing; and we deserve the naches to see our continuity in our children.”

May Hashem give us the strength to continue doing the good work, and the wisdom, humility, and courage to start anew out of our inner Egypt.

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