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Torah Tuesdays with Hennie Black- Parshat Bo

Hashem is always whispering in your heart. You just need to tune in




In this week’s parsha, entitled “Bo,” the last three of the ten plagues occur, which finally lead to Pharaoh’s submitting to Moshe’s demand to “let my people go.” Many commentators ask whether inflicting exactly 10 plagues on Egypt was by design. Couldn’t G-d have done it with one plague? Why not three? Or better yet, why have any plagues at all? Why was it necessary to inflict such chaos and mayhem on the Egyptian people? G-d could have just caused Pharaoh to let the Jewish people leave.

The purpose of the plagues was not random destruction. There was a method to its madness, which demonstrated everlasting truths for our life.

The parsha begins with G-d telling Moshe, “Come to Pharaoh,” in order to warn Pharaoh of the imminent eighth plague. One would normally expect G-d to tell Moshe, “Go to Pharaoh.” Why the unusual language?

G-d was telling Moshe, “Don’t worry Moshe—you are not alone. I will be with you the entire time.” There is no such thing as “go” when it comes to G-d. G-d is always with you wherever you go. This is a foundational message of Judaism and is really the message of the plagues as well.

This is why ten plagues were needed. Each group of plagues was to elicit a higher level of recognition of G-d. The purpose of the first three plagues was to engender a belief in G-d as the one and only G-d over the universe; the purpose of plagues four, five and six was to recognize that G-d is actively involved in this world and our lives, while the purpose of the final three plagues was to demonstrate that G-d is all powerful.

G-d’s unity, intercession in worldly affairs, and all-encompassing power are the primary lessons of the Exodus.

Nachmanides teaches us why the second of these axioms—G-d’s intervention in our lives–is so integral to Jewish belief. He explains that in the process of leaving Egypt, G-d manifested to Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Jewish people, and the entire world that He not only created the world, He is also actively involved in the affairs of humankind as well.

The Exodus from Egypt is a very important part of Jewish faith. That is why there are so many commandments that refer back to the Exodus. We remember it twice daily in the Shema prayer, our tefillin contain parchment referring to the Exodus, and when reciting kiddush every Friday evening, we say, “Zecher Leyetziat Mitzrayim”–in memory of the Exodus from Egypt. In fact, all the holidays mentioned in the Torah allude to the foundational event of the Exodus.

This message is so important. Many believe that the world evolved by chance. Others believe that G-d created the world, but that it now runs on its own—without the involvement of G-d. The Exodus teaches us that G-d is not only the creator of the world, He also continually recreates the world on a daily basis.

This message is clearly articulated when G-d gave us the Ten Commandments at Sinai. G-d begins with the first commandment: “I am the Lord, your G-d that took you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Wouldn’t it be more important to tell the entire Jewish nation standing at Sinai that G-d created the universe?! 

G-d’s reference to the Exodus in the first commandment is to show us that He is a part of our lives and wants a relationship with us. Just like G-d was present and freed us from the bondage of Egypt, G-d is constantly present in our lives.

And that comes back full circle to why G-d tells Moshe, “Come with me to Pharoah.” He is saying to Moshe, “I will be right beside you. I am here with you,” emphasizing His active and constant role in both Moshe’s life and the lives of all humanity.

Sometimes, it might be difficult to feel that G-d is a part of our daily life. But the Exodus reminds us of both G-d’s power and continual involvement in our lives. Having so many opportunities to recall the Exodus is what keeps us focused on this belief.

It’s up to us to recognize that G-d is truly part of our life. This is the concept called hashgacha pratit, translated as Divine Providence. The more we tune in to this idea, and the more often we look for it, the more often we will see it to be true!

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