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Here I Am

By: Mrs. Karen Goldscheider

Parshat Bo opens when God commands Moses to go to Egypt and speak to Pharaoh. Many point out the difficulty with this simple word; ­ bo, ‘come’, in this context. The word literally translates as “Come to Pharaoh.” The more appropriate word to use would be “lech”, which means ‘to go’, “Go to Pharaoh.”

The Chassidic Master, Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, who was known for his sharp and insightful thoughts, answers this question in the following way:

“You are only asking this question because you assume that God is standing at a distance from Egypt and is sending Moses to go there. But what if God is already there? God is present among the Jews in their suffering. In that case God would not say “Go there” he would say “Bo”, “Come here. I am already here.” “Bo el Paroh”, “come here to Pharaoh, come here to Egypt.”

This idea of God’s closeness to man, even in times of suffering, can be learned from the text of the Torah itself. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik points us to the following source:

God appears to Jacob the night before he and his family begin their journey down to Egypt and says to him: “Don’t be afraid...I will go down with you to Egypt” ( Genesis 46:3,4).

The Rav said that this exchange demonstrates God teaching man that even when it appears that God is distant and hidden, God is saying, “I am close by, I am with you.”

The following are the moving words of the Rabbi Soloveitchik on this verse:

 “Not only are the Jewish people in exile, the Shechina too is in exile. Not only are the Jewish people homeless, the Shechina is also homeless. God himself participated in the march from Egypt. He traveled with us from Egypt because He also went with us into Egypt. He was in bondage with us and He was liberated with us. He was a fellow traveler.” (Mesoras HaRav Chumash)

The story of our slavery and suffering in Egypt has its roots in a much earlier episode. God reveals to Abraham that his descendants will indeed suffer in a foreign land. They will be tortured by another nation (Genesis 15:13). Rabbi Soloveitchik finds it important to note that God introduces himself to Abraham at the beginning of this revelation.

אני ד, אשר הוצאתיך מאור כשדים" "

“I am the Lord who brought you out of the Ur of the Chaldees”

“This is the beginning of a friendship between God and Abraham” says the Rav…”God befriends man, and man and God are two friends, two comrades...To be a friend, you have to introduce yourself...God wants the Jew to feel that he is an associate, a comrade, a friend…”.

Up to the time of Brit ben Habetarim, Abraham’s life in Canaan had primarily been one of fulfillment. When he came to Canaan he became wealthy and occupied a prominent place in society. G­od reveals at this time that things will not always be as they are now. In the future, God reveals, Am Yisrael will have periods of total darkness where the Jewish people will not be able to defeat their enemies. Says Hashem to Abraham:

“I helped you; You prospered...but now begins the period of waiting and expectation, of faith and prayer….but don’t think that you have actually lost Me; I will be with you nonetheless. I am the same God.” (Abraham’s Journey)

In this epic dialogue between God and our father Abraham, God reveals His everlasting affection and loving embrace even when He may appear distant.

Concludes the Rav:

“That is why God told Abraham; I want you to remember during the long night of dread, during the long night of human wretchedness and failure, that “I am the Lord who brought you out of the Ur of the Chaldees.” There were better times before and finally the day will arrive when better times return.”

This spiritual awareness has helped the Jew withstand the most difficult of trials. Knowing that God is with us can be a lifeline of strength and comfort.

This week’s parsha is the beginning of what will soon be the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. “Bo el Paroh” God says to Moshe, “Begin the process of redemption. “I am right next to you, we will be redeemed together.”

During these challenging days as we wait for the Ultimate Redemption, we look to our Torah for messages that strengthen us and give us courage. We pray that the Torah learning we do together at Midreshet Moriah continues to bring Hashem’s presence ever closer to us together with all of Am Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom.




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