In Parashat Bo, we continue the story of the Israelites in Slavery. The people were not able to leave Egypt on their own, they were waiting for Pharaoh to let them go. This is a constant theme in the history of Slavery. The slaves develop a dependency upon the Enslaver, in this case Pharaoh. It is an interesting psychological phenomena, because after the first seven plagues, it would seem as if the Israelites could just get up and go. Egypt was weakened and yet, the Israelites stayed. One reason was that Moses was not ready to lead them out, so they had no leader and were still feeling powerless.
Moses is told to come to Pharaoh by God. Most translations say Go to Pharaoh, the word Bo, in Hebrew however, means ‘come’. I understand this command of God’s to mean that even in the most evil person is still a spark of God, a pinpoint of light. I think that God is telling Moses to speak to this dimming light of Pharaoh to get him to stop the plagues and let the Israelites go. In fact, Moses asks Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before God?” This is Moses’ plea to Pharaoh to stop denying Truth. It is his plea to Pharaoh to stop denying basic human dignity to all people. It is the cry of desperation to the man who can stop the carnage and won’t because of ego and fear. Even Pharaoh’s courtiers ask him the same question, wondering if he realizes that Egypt is lost and his enslavement of the Israelites is a snare for the entire land of Egypt.
This is the tragedy of the Enslaver. The fear and ego of the Pharaoh/enslaver is so great that they can’t see truth. They are unable to see the basic dignity inherent in every human being. They can’t even see their own dignity. They only see what they will lose and what they can gain. They only see power and might. This type of person believes that “Might Makes Right”!
This is, of course, the tragedy of SUDAN. The oppressors see the oppressed as less than human. They see them as their tools and as their possessions. Why? Because of bigotry and hatred. Because of Religious Intolerance and fear. We, the rest of the world, have to stand up for the people of Southern Sudan. We, like our ancestor Moses, have to stand up to the Pharaoh and not let these people be killed. We have to, if necessary, visit the plagues upon today’s Pharaoh. This is the call of Parashat Bo to us. It is the call of freedom for all. It is the call of dignity to all. It is the call of NO to intolerance. It is the call of NO to enslavement! It is the call of NO to destruction! It is the call of NO to “might is right”. It is the call of NO to fear and ego ruling individuals and nations.
I want to commend Jewish World Watch for saying NO to all of these scourges of society. I want to commend Janis Kaminer-Reznik and Rabbi Harold Schulweis for starting a movement which embodies the best of humanity, the best of Torah and the best of the Jewish Tradition. You have made all of us who follow you, our Moses, better people and I am grateful for this.
Rabbi Mark Borovitz