Parshat Bo 5783: Pharaoh’s Arrogance Causes Self-Defeating Ways and Ends

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Bo is being sponsored by Ayton and Ayelet Lefkowitz and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas Ayton’s Grandmothers: Chana Michla bas Zeev Yitzchak and Miriam bas Avraham and his Grandfather Klonimus Yechezkel ben Yehuda. To Mishpochat Lefkowitz, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Bo 5783: Pharaoh’s Arrogance Causes Self-Defeating Ways and Ends

by Moshe Burt

For this author, Parshat Bo annually relates to that nutty parody, composed by Guess Who, of a crazy tune which got a lot of radio play back “in the Old Country” a few decades ago, “Does Your Korbon Pesach Lose It’s Flavor Tied to the Bedpost Overnight?” (Actually, the real title to the song was “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?”) Here’s hoping that subscribers to this Parshat HaShevua, especially newer subscribers will click on the above YouTube link for a bit of levity.

Over the years, this author’s nutty parody has cut right to the chase, to the very heart of our Parshat. The lamb was seen by the Mitzriyim (Egyptians) as one of their myriads of “gods”. Therefore, Hashem mandated the Mitzvot of taking the Korbon Pesach publicly, slaughtering it and applying the da’am on Jewish doorposts. The going up from Mitzrayim (Egypt), enroute to their ultimate goal “…a land flowing with milk and honey …” — the Yetziyat Mitzrayim is as relevant to the National entity (B’nei Yisrael) today, as it was then, as it relates to emunah (belief in) and yirat (fear of) Hashem.

Just a note here for historical perspective: from the point where Moshe experienced the revelation of the Burning Bush on the 15th of Nissan in the year 2447, to Moshe’s first approach to Pharaoh, through the ten plagues (the asseret makot), to the Jews’ liberation from the Egyptian slavery and oppression: there spanned exactly one year. (Cited from “The Jewish Timeline Encylopedia,” by Mattis Kantor, page 26) “The Jewish Timeline Encylopedia” notes:

The B’nei Yisrael who left Egypt on the 15th of Nissan included 600,000 men between twenty to sixty years of age. In normal demographic extensions, this would add up to a population of approximately 2,000,000 people. (ibid)

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. in his Sefer, “Growth Through Torah,” renders to English Sefer Shemos, Perek 10, posuk 3:

“And Moshe and Aaron came to Pharaoh and they said to him, ‘This is what the Almighty, The Lord of the Hebrews Said: How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let my people go and they shall serve me.”

Rashi renders the word “humble” as Hashem saying to Pharaoh:

“You have refused to become poor and lowly before Me!” (Rashi Rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary” on Sefer Shemos, Perek 10, posuk 3)

We pick up Moshe and Aaron informing Pharaoh of Hashem’s Words: :

“For if you refuse to send forth My people, behold, tomorrow I shall bring a locust-swarm into your border. It will cover the surface of the earth so that one will not be able to see the earth; and it will consume all the trees that grow for you from the field. They will fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all Egypt, such as your fathers and grandfathers have not seen from the day they came onto the earth until this day. And he turned and left Pharaoh’s presence.” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 10, posukim 4-6 as rendered to English in the The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides commentary on key phrases in posukim 5 and 6 (page 341) :

Posuk 5: “All of the trees.” This term is the basis of a dispute among commentators, for if the hail destroyed the trees (The Artscroll Stone Chumash referring to Sefer Shemos, Perek 9, posuk 25), what trees were there for the locusts to consume? All agree that the hail did not totally destroy the trees; rather that it broke limbs and caused serious damage. According to Ibn Ezra, several months must have elapsed between the hail and the locusts so that the damaged trees could flourish again. Ramban disputes this… hold[ing] that the hail fell in Adar, and the last three plagues — locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn — took place in quick succession, in Nissan, the month of the Yetziyot Mitzrayim. As for the trees, not all the branches were broken by the hail, so that the remaining ones could have produced foliage in a few weeks.

Posuk 6: “They will fill your houses.” One would have expected Pharaoh’s own palace, which was isolated and protected, to be the last one infiltrated by the locusts, while the exposed homes of the peasantry would suffer first. The order of our verse… indicates that the opposite occurred, that Pharaoh was the first to feel the effects… and the last were the common people. This teaches that the punishment came first to those who were most responsible for the persecution: first Pharaoh, then his courtiers, and finally the general population. (The Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Kli Yakar)

There is a question that this author raises on a phrase in posuk 6: “And he turned and left.” If both Moshe and Aaron spoke to Pharaoh in the prelude to the Makka of Locusts, why does Torah use the singular here, when plural seems appropriate as they were present in confronting Pharaoh? The Artscroll Stone Chumash cites Ramban regarding this question (ibid, page 341) :

Moshe surmised that Pharaoh and his servants would be terrified by the prospect that the loss of the remaining food supply would cause a famine. To allow them to digest the news and consult, he and Aaron left abruptly without taking leave.

This author can only assume that the singularity of the phrase indicates that Moshe and Aaron left simultaneously [adverb: at the same time], as one.

After the hagdamah on our Parsha, this author cited Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, from his Sefer, “Growth Through Torah,” who provides message alluded to in the citing of Sefer Shemos, Perek 10, posukim 4 through 6 above. Rabbi Pliskin entitles his vort on Sefer Shemos, Perek 10, posuk 3 and cites Rabbeinu Bachya (pages 159-160)

“Don’t allow arrogance to cause you to behave in self-defeating ways.”

Rabbeinu Bachya wrote in his commentary that the Almighty requests a person to submit his will to the will of the Almighty and this takes humility. Pharaoh was a very arrogant person and refused to humble himself. Because of this faulty attribute, he caused his own downfall.

… There are many people who cause themselves problems in life because of their arrogance. It is their arrogance which makes them retaliate when someone slights them in some manner. A person with humility would remain silent and that would end the matter. But the arrogant person answers in an attacking manner and this serves to prolong the quarrel. A person with humility will ask forgiveness when he has wronged someone, even when he feels that the other person is more to blame than himself [and] will not ask forgiveness even when he is really at fault. A person with humility will reach out to others when he needs help. The arrogant person will feel that it is below his dignity to show that he has any weaknesses and will suffer rather than to do what he considers belittling himself.

This author could add a few more aspects to a description of an arrogant person: One who spreads false rumors, fake news, lies incessantly: adverb — without stopping, continuously; ceaselessly for years and decades on end. Sound like any leaders, in Israel, the United States, etc. that we know?

Rabbi Pliskin’s citing of Rabbeinu Bachya offers a lesson pertinent for all of us, including, and perhaps particularly, our Israeli political and governmental leaders. He asks, and we may ask many with governing powers in Israel, and for that matter, certain Jews holding political positions in the United States (ibid, page 160):

In what ways do you cause yourself needless suffering because of arrogance? What will you do to overcome this fault?

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebui homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.