Thursday, January 22, 2015


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bo
3 Shevat 5775/ January 23, 2015

At the beginning of Parshas Bo, seven plagues have already ravaged Egypt, and the impenetrable resolve of the uncompromising Pharaoh was finally starting to break. He summoned Moshe and expressed a willingness to negotiate. He asked Moshe who exactly would be leaving?
Moshe replied that not only will every man, woman and child leave Egypt, but they will take every one of their animals with them. Nothing will remain behind in their exodus to serve G-d. Upon hearing that Pharaoh angrily replied: “Not so! Let the men go because it is what you are seeking!” With that he has Moshe and Aharon dismissed.
What was the point of contention between Moshe and Pharaoh as to who would be leaving? Also, why did Pharaoh say that the men can go because it is what you are seeking, not because they are what you are seeking?   
I believe the difference between Moshe’s viewpoint and Pharaoh’s viewpoint is the difference between a housewife and a doctor:
A woman is rushing to the store one Friday afternoon to purchase the last minute emergency groceries before Shabbos. As she is leaving she calls out to her husband who is reading the paper on the couch: “Moshe, please do the dishes, vacuum the living room, and make sure the house is presentable before I come home. Shabbos is in two hours.”
Moshe continues reading the paper and promptly dozes off. When he wakes up he realizes that his wife will be home in twenty minutes. In a panic he calls up his neighbor’s wife and promises that he will fix her leaky sink and fix her fence on Sunday if she comes over and straightens up the house right now. She laughs but agrees.
Moshe’s wife enters the home to find the house spotless and ready for Shabbos. When she finds out the next day how it happened she rolls her eyes and mutters “typical”. But she isn’t upset. After all he made sure the house was ready for Shabbos, and she didn’t really care who did it.
A second scenario: Chaim goes to the doctor for a physical. The doctor examines him thoroughly and then sits down to discuss the results. He looks sternly at his patient. “Chaim, we need an hour of exercise every day! Do you understand? This is your health on the line and it’s not a joke. I don’t want to start telling you the complications you can start to face if it’s not done. When you come back in six months I want to see an improvement.”
Chaim comes home and calls over Samantha, his housekeeper. “Samantha, my doctor just informed me that there’s got to be an hour of exercise done each day. Please do it and let me know when it’s done so I can tell the doctor.”
In this situation Chaim obviously completely misunderstood what the doctor was telling him. The doctor of course wanted Chaim to do the exercise, not just to make sure it was done.
Pharaoh was the supreme ruler of a polytheistic society. The ancient Egyptians, as well as the ancient Greeks and Romans, believed that there were many gods, each of whom was temperamental and finicky. The humans had to ensure that the gods were pacified and happy, otherwise they may use their powers against the humans.
Therefore, Pharaoh told Moshe that to serve G-d he only needed the men. The men could go into the desert and perform all the requisite rituals and incantations to keep the gods happy. Why would the women and children need to join? Thus Pharaoh insisted that it - i.e. the pacification of the gods - was what Moshe sought, and that only necessitated the men’s departure. 
Moshe replied that Pharaoh woefully misunderstood the Jewish viewpoint of Serving G-d. It is not something that needs to get done, but something we need to do. Each and every Jew needs to pray, learn Torah, and perform mitzvos constantly in order to solidify and maintain his/her connection with G-d. Even our animals and possessions are utilized in serving Hashem. Nothing could be left behind when we departed Egypt, for a Jew devotes himself to the One true G-d with all his heart, all his soul, and all his resources! 

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum     

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