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Parshat Bo, 5781

01/20/2021 11:00:17 AM

Jan20

Adonai said to come to Pharoah...
 
If Moses is told to come to Pharoah rather than to go to Pharoah, there must be a deeper meaning.
 
What is the difference after all between coming and going?
 
Well, coming means moving toward and going means moving away. "Come here." "Go there." "Come" means moving toward the speaker and "go" means moving away from the speaker.
 
So, by saying come to Pharoah, G-d is saying that by moving toward Pharoah, Moses is moving toward the speaker, moving toward G-d.
 
G-d is telling Moses -- and telling us -- that G-d is with Pharaoh. Yes, Pharaoh, the ultimate embodiment of human arrogance, irredeemable evil and egotism. What is G-d doing there? Ensuring that justice be done? Yes, but the name of G-d in our verse is "Adonai" which refers to G-d's compassion and love, not "Elohim" which refers to G-d's judgment.
 
So, G-d's compassion and mercy is even present in the company of the worst of the worst.
 
The Torah is saying that if even there in the presence of Pharaoh there is something of G-d to be found, how much more so is there something of G-d's presence to be found in every human being who has not sunk to the level of evil of Pharaoh. And if G-d's presence is to be found in everyone, wouldn't that apply perhaps even more so in every Jew who stood with us at Sinai?
 
It seems to me that the way that our Country got mired in this morass of division and polarization was that we stopped speaking with people we disagree with. Social media added immeasurably by creating safe spaces for hate, but also by ensuring that we all were directed to forums and information sources that agreed with what we already believed.   Adding nitroglycerin to the fire was the rudeness, incivility and downright demonization that the anonymity of the online presence provides.
 
The lesson of Bo has never been more relevant as our country struggles and, we pray, emerges from the miasma of the pandemic and hate speech and hateful actions that has haunted us.
 
I recently read an article on, of all places, the Orthodox website Aish.com, called "How to Talk to a Neo-Nazi."  I was incredulous that the writer presented a clear and realistic description of a life-changing encounter not in the murky mire of the internet but in real life. The short article has much to teach in a very few words. I am not by any means recommending that we all go out and spread the good word to heavily-armed extremists. There are many who are seriously disturbed and morally impaired, with whom any contact is dangerous. But at the same time, I am advocating that we talk with each other, with other Jews, with colleagues, neighbors, relatives, as long as it can happen in an atmosphere of respect and good will, with a commitment to the relationship and the assumption that we are dealing with another precious human being, created in G-d's image.
 
The Torah portion, as Rashi tells it, contains a striking image. G-d speaks to both Moses and Aaron, telling them to speak to the Jews a message of redemption and obligation. How does that happen? Do they speak in unison? Does one start a sentence and the other finish it?
 
Rashi says, "the Word emerged from between both of them." G-d's singular Adonai Echad Voice emerges when brothers and sisters speak with each other. That is the basis of the ongoing argument and dialogue that is Judaism and it is the basis of the ongoing argument and dialogue that is and must continue to be American democracy.
 
Listen to NJ 11th Congressional District Representative Mikie Sherrill's Shabbat greeting for Adath Shalom and our community as we face challenging times.

Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781