04 Jan SHABBOS IS IN THE AIR: COME WITH ME
“Bo el Pharaoh.” (Shemos 10:1)
“Bo” is understood in this context to mean “to go”, as HaShem is instructing Moshe to go to Pharaoh and plead on behalf of the Jewish people. The word “bo” is usually translated as “to come”, while the Hebrew word for “to go” is “leich”. (For example, when HaShem said to our Patriarch Avraham “lech-lecha”, meaning “go for yourself”.) Why does the chumash use the word “bo”? HaShem is telling Moshe, and all future generations, that we are never alone, that He is always with us. “Bo – Come with Me.” HaShem is always by our side. Of course, Moshe had his fears. It was Moshe who said “Mi onichi ki eileich el Pharaoh – Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh.” (Shemos 3:11) Moshe also voiced concern about Pharaoh listening to his words, as he had a speech impediment. “Va’ani aral sefosayim – And I have sealed lips.” (Shemos 6:12) HaShem, who knows our innermost thoughts, and can see into our hearts and neshamos, said to Moshe, “Bo – Come with Me. Don’t be afraid. You are not alone.” We all have “Pharoahs” in our lives, be it financial insecurities, health problems, family and other interpersonal relationship issues, or workplace challenges. No one is immune to life’s trials and tribulations. Life can be stressful, at times even traumatic. We may feel alone, abandoned, without anyone to turn to. But, in truth, we are never alone. HaShem is always by our side. Dovid HaMelech, King David, who lived with so much pain and suffering, composed Tehillim, the Book of Psalms. Through his words, he gives us all much hope and strength. He reassures that when we cry out, HaShem hears our tefillos and sees our pain. “He who implants the ear, shall He not hear? He who fashions the eye, shall He not see?” (Tehillim 94) Elsewhere, King David writes “I lift up my eyes to the mountains… my help comes from HaShem, Maker of heaven and earth.” (Tehillim 121) Whenever we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, know that HaShem is always with us. Ready to guide us, ready to direct us and allay our fears. The Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787- 1859), was known for his sharp, wise comments. An agnostic man once approached the Rebbe saying, “I’m searching all over for G-d, but I can’t find Him.” To which the Kotzker promptly responded, “G-d can be found wherever He is given entry.” HaShem is ready to say “Bo – Come with Me”, we just have to let Him in. My mother a”h, would always make a point of asking HaShem to help her find the proper words when teaching and lecturing. Before speaking, the Rebbetzin would say a silent prayer from Psalm 51, the prayer that precedes our daily Amidah. “HaShem sifasai tiftach – HaShem, open my lips, ufi yagid te’hilosecha – that my mouth may declare Your praise.” We all have our “Bo” moments in life. Times when we truly feel that HaShem’s presence is with us. Several years ago, I had to undergo a difficult eye surgery. As I was being wheeled into the OR, I kept repeating to myself words from the bedtime Shema. “Besheim HaShem Elokei Yisroel… In the name of HaShem, the G-d of Israel, may (the angels) Michoel be at my right, Gavriel at my left, Uriel before me, Rephael behind me, and above my head, the presence of HaShem”. I also remembered that my mother always explained that the reason we use the phrase “sholom aleichem”, in the plural form, even when greeting an individual, is because no Jew is ever alone. We are in the constant company of HaShem’s malochim, protecting us and guiding us through our life’s journeys. Praying, and actually feeling, that I was surrounded by HaShem’s angels, and that HaShem was watching over me from above, calmed my anxious spirit, and gave me peace of mind, heart and soul. This week’s parsha closes on a high note. Yes – Bnei Yisroel are really going to be leaving the hardships of Egypt behind them. Yes, after so many years of slavery and oppression, all may have seemed lost and hopeless. Yet, HaShem showed that in an instant, miracles can happen, and Bnei Yisroel was about to experience freedom and independence. The Midrash Lekach Tov on Megillas Esther teaches that “yeshuas HaShem ke-heref ayin – the salvation from HaShem can come as quick as the blink of an eye.” Just as HaShem walked with Moshe, and walked with the Jewish nation, so too, does He walk with us. When everything seems dark, when we think that we are at the end of the rope, let’s remember the message of “Bo”. We should all merit that HaShem’s presence accompany us always. Shabbat Shalom!