Shabbat Bo: “Come” to Pharaoh

“The self is not built to carry its own weight.” Social psychologist Roy Baumeister

Our parashat hashavua is Bo, literally “come.” As we read at the beginning of the parashah:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה֙’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה 

VaYomer HaShem el Moshe, “Bo el Par’oh.”

HaShem said to Moses, “Come to Pharaoh.”

The word bo is the singular present tense imperative “come.” It is interesting to note, said the Kotzker Rebbi, that the Torah here uses bo and not lekh, “go.” One would expect “go” – “Go to Pharaoh and say to him….” which we’ve seen many times at this point in the narrative.

The Kotzker continues: It seems that HaShem is saying to Moshe, “come with Me and I will be with you.”

It is not unlike the way we address each other. A friend, a loved one, a companion in study, shares with you their difficulty or their need. You can say “go do this.” Or, if you are able, you can say “come, I’ll be with you, let’s do it together.” Just as HaShem did.

In the Talmud, and in the later development of Jewish ethics as a genre, we are encouraged to see HaShem as our role model.

לְהַלֵּךְ אַחַר מִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מָה הוּא מַלְבִּישׁ עֲרוּמִּים דִּכְתִיב וַיַּעַשׂ ה׳ אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כׇּתְנוֹת עוֹר וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם אַף אַתָּה הַלְבֵּשׁ עֲרוּמִּים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בִּיקֵּר חוֹלִים דִּכְתִיב וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה׳ בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא אַף אַתָּה בַּקֵּר חוֹלִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא נִיחֵם אֲבֵלִים דִּכְתִיב וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ אַף אַתָּה נַחֵם אֲבֵלִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא קָבַר מֵתִים דִּכְתִיב וַיִּקְבֹּר אוֹתוֹ בַּגַּי אַף אַתָּה קְבוֹר מֵתִים

One should follow the attributes of the Holy Blessed One: 

HaShem clothes the naked, as it is written: “HaShem made for the humans garments of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21), so too, should you clothe the naked. 

The Holy Blessed One visits the sick, as it is written “HaShem appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre” (Genesis 18:1), so too, should you visit the sick. 

The Holy Blessed One consoles mourners, as it is written: “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that HaShem blessed Isaac his son” (Genesis 25:11), so too, should you console mourners. 

The Holy Blessed One buries the dead, as it is written: “HaShem buried Moshe in the valley in the land of Moab” (Deuteronomy 34:6), so too, should you bury the dead.

In all these examples we see that the root of Jewish meaning is in our kindness toward each other, the kindness to come with, rather than to say I think you should go. The greatest holy act that Jewish tradition can imagine is not the once in a lifetime splitting of the Sea – although that is a good thing when needed – but rather the daily small acts affirming that we belong to each other.

We’re not meant to be individuals without the embracing context of community; we don’t know how to do life alone. Come, let’s do it together.

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