This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Bo (5760)
This parsha is probably is the most important single section in the Torah because it is about the actual going out of Egypt.
The first, and the most important, of the Ten Commandments is to believe in G-d, as it is written: “I am G-d that took you out of Egypt” It is the most important of all the Commandments, because without the belief in The Commander, there is no reason to do the commandments. Perhaps you may ask, why didn’t G-d just say, “Believe in me”? Or, why didn’t He say something even greater and more up to date, like “I am G-d that creates the entire universe, including Egypt!”? But it must be that somehow the exodus from Egypt is more important than even the Heavens and the Earth and that it is essential to Jewish belief.
One reason is that the Heavens and earth are parts of the creation, but the exodus is the REASON for creation.
It reminds me of a cartoon that I once saw picturing a few hundred protesters holding picket signs saying “Freedom of Speech!” standing around their leader who is speaking from this makeshift platform in the street saying, “Well it’s good news and bad news. The good news is, we have been granted complete freedom of speech. And the bad news is… that we have nothing to say”
Pharaoh represents the creation; powerful, splendid and full of pleasures but without real meaning. It’s all here today and gone tomorrow.
This is the reason that Pharaoh was so stubborn and refused to admit that there is a King of the Universe. Paro is the same letters as ‘arof’ meaning ‘back of the neck’ which implies two things 1. he wants nothing to do with the ‘face’ of G-d i.e. holiness and 2. he, like the neck, stands between the head i.e. the spiritual, and the body i.e. the physical, explaining why the Egyptians were very spiritual people and still the most licentious in the world.
Pharaoh is the essence of egoism, as we explained in last weeks essay. The Rebbe explains that this is one of the meanings of ‘Man is created in G-d’s image’, namely that every man feels the same as G-d; I am the only real existence, I make all the laws, everything exists only for me (ANOCHI v ’LO Y’HIYEH LECHAW) etc. And this feeling of “I” (in English it’s even a CAPITAL ‘I’) is the source of all evil.
So here we have a very deep idea that is explained in the first chapter of the ‘Tanya’; good is anything that reveals G-dliness i.e. Judaism, and evil is anything that conceals or hides G-dliness i.e. egoism.
Perhaps you will ask, how can anything conceal G-d? Isn’t G-d Almighty and Omnipresent?
The answer is; “Come to Pharaoh”. In other words, this is the deepest secret that there is, the biggest paradox and the greatest challenge, and this is what G-d revealed to Moshe in this week’s section.
This is the secret behind the power of Pharaoh and Egypt; they are creations that have the power to, so-to-speak, cover and oppose G-d Himself. In fact G-d ‘cannot’ combat these powers alone (without changing the entire makeup of the creation) He ‘needs’ the assistance of Moshe and the Jewish people.
This is the practical lesson from our parsha (because you may wonder why we need a special parsha just for the last three plagues). In this section G-d showed Moshe the essence of the reason for creation, the secret of secrets; He gave Moshe the energy to lead the Jewish people to transform themselves and the entire world to holiness.
This is the real meaning of the first of the Ten Command-ments: “Anochi (the real ‘I’) is your G-d, THAT will take you out of Egypt (the false ‘I’)”
In other words; this is what it really means to believe in G-d; to feel that the only way to transform the creation into holiness, to go out of Egypt, is through the belief in G-d…and his servant Moshe.
We must remember that without Moshe the Jewish people would never have gone out of Egypt. So what G-d is really saying here is that ‘although you saw Moshe leading you, it was really Me’, Moshe is really G-d in action.
This is the meaning of what it says in the last section of the Torah (Dev. 33:1) “Moshe the man of G-d”; the belief in Moshe, the belief in G-d, and the going out of Egypt are inseparable; there can’t be one without the other.
This explains why G-d told the Jews to circumcise themselves and to sacrifice a lamb before leaving Egypt, because both of these acts were done with self-sacrifice and complete trust in G-d. The lamb sacrifice entailed taking one of the gods of the Egyptians, holding it prisoner for four days, and murdering it before their eyes without fearing the consequences.
Circumcision meant inflicting a large painful open bleeding wound in one’s self, just hours before beginning an arduous foot trek into the desert. Because the only way to really be attached to G-d and Moshe, His servant, is through self-sacrifice and complete trust in the commandments of the Creator, only then is the Torah really meaningful and powerful enough to take one out of Mitzriam.
The true meaning of the above is that we must learn and believe the lessons of the Rebbe of Lubavitch, the Moshe of our generation. The only reasons for not following the Rebbe are the same reasons for not following Moshe; either ignorance or jealousy.
It says in the prophets that the miracles of the Moshiach will be greater than those of Moshe. But Mimonadies says that the Moshiach need do no miracles. In truth there is no discrepancy; the Moshiach will bring every Jew to believe and trust in G-d (the first of the Ten Commandments) something that even Moshe didn’t succeed in doing through his miracles.
This is the work of the Rebbe of Chabad: to take every Jew out of Mitzriam and teach them how to use His Torah to change the world. And this is what Moshe received in this week’s section; the power to prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach.
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.