Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Bo - 5777

Dear friends,

This week's Parasha describes the last three plagues which finally convinced Pharaoh and his people to let the Children of Israel leave Egypt.

As you will recall, Pharaoh's initial response to Moses' request of "Let MY People Go" was:

"Who is the L-rd that I should heed Him and let Israel go? I do not know the L-rd, nor would I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2)

Pharaoh's change of mind did not come suddenly. It took all ten plagues and finally the last one, the death of the first born, for him to insist that the Israelites leave Egypt.

Here is a brief summary of Pharaoh’s 'softening of the heart':

". . . people could not see one another, (his/her brother) and for three days no one could get up from where he was, but all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings" (Exodus 10:23)

Pharaoh calls Moses and says that they can leave together with their children, but not their flocks and their herds. Moses says "not a hoof shall remain behind," and in fact he, Pharaoh, must also provide them with animals that they can use for their sacrifice to G-d. At this point, Pharaoh walks out of the negotiations and tells Moses to never come back with any demands and that, if he should show up again, he will have him killed. Moses answers that he will, indeed, not return on his own, but that following the last plague, Pharaoh will come calling on him to insist that they leave, and that's when all the Children of Israel would leave.

The question that is asked is: What was so terrible about the plague of darkness that made the Egyptians go to Pharaoh and ask him to let the Israelites leave?

I like one of the explanations given. The Egyptians were devastated by the darkness. They were isolated and imprisoned within their homes. They could not move. They could not see or communicate with their own family members and friends. We know that one of the cruelest punishments is to throw someone in an isolation cell. That's how the Egyptians felt during those three days. They understood the suffering of a slave whose movement and ability to be with his family and friends is taken away from him.

I believe that there is an important message for us. Yes, we are free, but are we able to see 'one another'? Do we understand the suffering and the needs of others? If we do not, then we are living in darkness and caring only for ourselves.

Our country is divided. We are unable to see our fellow human beings. The Exodus from Egypt teaches us to see the light and care about one another and the world around us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram