Parshat Bo From Central East D’var Torah

Posted on July 21, 2008

“With a strong hand Hashem took us out of Egypt.” At every opportunity, we are confronted by the need to remember the Exodus “all the days of your lives,” as the Haggada instructs us. Isn’t this just a bit overdoing it?

To understand the Torah’s preoccupation with the events currently being read in the Torah, let us consider the case of Paroh (Pharaoh). Hashem – through Moshe and Ahron – warned Paroh that he faced an accounting for his actions, and that he and his nation would be devastated in every conceivable way, if he did not relent and let the Jewish People go. In fact, Paroh was specifically told that the MOST horrendous plague – the killing of all the first-born, including his own – is “waiting in the wings” if he does not give in. And yet Paroh remained obstinate, despite his knowledge that the final blow could still be avoided.

Now, perhaps Paroh was doubtful of Hashem’s power at the beginning. Perhaps he thought Moshe and Ahron were good sorcerers, but their trickery wouldn’t, couldn’t last. But as plague after plague unfolded, EXACTLY as Hashem said it would, don’t you think Paroh should have gotten the message? How is it that he continually, tragically failed to heed the warnings, watching as his nation crumbled, until he was left without an army, without an economy, with his empire in shambles? The answer lies in human nature. When he have a particular mindset, a firm “world-view” and philosophy, we will fight to the end to justify our original beliefs, even to the point of self-destruction. A committed smoker will go on smoking – despite all the evidence of risk; a thief tends to steal again, despite the time he may have spent in prison for his crimes. We may “reform” for the moment, but we seem to invariably revert to our old patterns. Thus the Torah, in its great wisdom and understanding of the human psyche, surrounds us with clear and constant reminders of the Exodus, in order to reinforce one essential truth: We Jews are not bound to the normal constraints of history. We are tied to a greater destiny, a nature-defying insularity that will protect us when we are in danger, that will extricate us from even the most seemingly hopeless situation. This is a difficult concept to accept, especially in the Western way of thinking, and so we need weekly, daily, even hourly acknowledgements of the Exodus, so that we never lose sight or “let go” of its lessons for us.

As long as we remember our unique character – defined by the mitzvot and an intimate attachment to Hashem – we will defy the conventions of natural history, even as we persevered in Egypt against overwhelming odds – and go on to the Final Redemption, soon and in our lifetime.