Parashat Bo – Looking Backwards and Ahead

Bo el Par’oh’ – The beginning words of this week’s parasha are generally translated as ‘Go to Pharaoh’, the context of which is God telling Moses to go to Pharaoh’ in order that God can display God’s might and supremacy to Pharaoh and the Egyptian people.  However, the word ‘bodoes not actually mean ‘go’; rather, it means ‘come’.  Thus, the use of the word ‘come’ is an improper translation.  Clearly, the spirit of the instruction is that God is telling Moses to go to Pharaoh; the word ‘come’ would normally be usually used in the way: ‘Come here…’ rather than giving directions to an individual to ‘come to’ somewhere else.   That is, when we tell someone to come, it is not usually to direct them to move from near us to far away, but rather to move from a distance to be closer to us.

Another biblical verse comes to mind which uses this same word ‘Bo’. Psalm 100 reads: ‘Bo’u l’fanav bir’nana—All come into God’s presence with rejoicing!’  It is clear here that the instructive word ‘Come’ is in fact the Psalmist exhorting the reader to come close, to rejoice in God’s presence.

In fact, the word ‘come’ in this Psalm sounds like an invitation, as in ‘Come, join in…’  Applying this understanding of the word to the opening of this week’s parasha, to what could God be inviting Moses?  I think the word ‘Bo’ in both places are invitations, one and the same: we are invited into God’s holy place and healing presence; it is a perpetual and open invitation, available day and night when we are ready.   I like to think that in this moment in Torah it is God beckoning us to come into the challenges of slavery and redemption ahead, as darkness is also a part of life into which we must also enter fully and be present.

Bo’u l’fanav bir’nana – from the Psalm, this is the hint that the invitation applies in times of rejoicing. Bo el Par’oh – this tells us that we are also, even especially invited in times of suffering. God’ sacred presence and love is with us in all of it, with us in the pain and the illness as well as in the joy and gratitude. This knowledge and faith can provide us perspective and empathy to be able to dwell in both places, to continue to live through all of life’s moments.

The confluence of this portion with the week of this new world year beckons: the promise of holiness and blessing calls us to the New Year 2014. The task for us ahead is how we choose to live it.  We don’t just fall into it; it is a reminder that we have a role and responsibility in how we choose to live.

In the midst of my own personal journey from pain to wholeness, I am helped by this to see and feel more clearly that I am not alone, that I am not a victim of life’s capriciousness.  I did not choose to be in this situation at this time, yet here I am.  To be open to this difficulty as a catalyst toward change is the best that I can do – learning from the experience in order to teach better, to listen better, to live better.  I pray these days of transition into 2014 bring blessings of abundance, hope, healing and peace.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

    Jan 05, 2014 @ 22:08:26

    This is great my darling. I like the idea that you are welcomed to begin the healing process…

    John E Lertzman
    Phone 212-233-0702
    Mobile 818-540-5733


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