Shabbat Shalom everyone!
Are you ever bothered by a translation in your Chumash or Tanach? Sometimes translations just don’t seem to fit..
One example is found in Parshat Bo. That’s what we are going to dive into this week!
The parsha opens: “Vayomer Hashem el-Moshe, ‘Bo el Paroh’ – Then the Lord said to Moses ‘Go to Pharaoh'”.
It’s interesting to note that “Bo” is often translated here as “Go”, when it in fact means “come”…
Why is Hashem saying “Come to Paroh”, when He is in fact sending Moshe off on his mission?
To get to the bottom of this, let us study an explanation from the great Chassidic commentator, the Noam Elimelech:
“How does a Tzaddik react when he witnesses one miracle from Hashem, or hears of it from another righteous person? He is elevated, and becomes deeply inspired, for a long time to come.
And what happens to a Rasha when he observes one Divine miracle, or listens to the divrei torah of a righteous person one time? He is caused to begin a path of teshuvah, for he gets an inkling of realization of the error of his ways. This is good.. but at the same time, this man is compared to a vomiting dog. How so?
A dog who throws up, will walk away from his mess, but unfortunately come back later to check it out again.. It is similar with a Rasha who was inspired only once. He gets a glimmer of light and realization, but it fades, and meanders back to his old ways. Nothing really changes.
But if a Tzaddik is consistent in speaking to a Rasha, continuously attempting to inspire him, the Rasha will be permanently and positively affected!
That is why the Torah’s literal meaning is “Come to Paroh – Bo el Paroh”.
“Come” connotes consistency.
Hashem commanded Moshe to be persistent with Paroh, in attempting to change his heart, mind, and decree.
And there is a certain way to go about this… The Noam Elimelech continues to enlighten us:
“Hashem hardened Paroh’s heart “l’ma’an shisi ososai ayleh b’kirbo – so that I may show these Signs of Mine among them”.
We understand the “Signs” of Hashem were miracles (for the Jews), and the plagues (for the Egyptians).* So now we know “os” (singular form of “ososai”) means sign. But it also has another implication. “Os” also means “letter”.. Hashem commanded Moshe to speak to Paroh. And how do we speak? With words, made from letters! Moshe confronted Paroh with the Holy letters of speech– the words of Hashem, which were like Holy signs!
Even the term “b’kirbo – among them” imparts a lesson: These lessons should resound among Paroh and his servants! Make sure you penetrate the heart of Paroh! ”
There are two strong characters in our Torah moral of today: Moshe is the aforementioned Tzadik. Paroh is the Rasha.
Tragically and foolishly, Paroh never completely changed his mind. Even after the death of all the firstborn sons in his kingdom, he ultimately chose to continue his persecution of the Bnei Yisroel. We all have free choice, and must use this privilege wisely.
In contrast to Paroh, Moshe Rabbeinu was so strongly inspired by these Divine signs and events, that he constantly spoke of them, for generations. He transmitted the inspiration of the lessons and miracles, which resound among us today!
(Mishlei highlights the striking difference, between the ways fools and wise people take advice, and comprehend Hashem’s doings, in many places. Even the Chinese scholar Confucius thought about this, for he once said: “A fool despises good counsel, but a wise man takes it to heart”.)
I learned something while studying this chiddush; a certain concept we can apply in our lives and relationships today:
When you aspire to change someone’s life, you must be persistent. When you want to touch someone, perhaps someone who is stumbling in a personal darkness, you mustn’t give up after one try. If you only try once, they may slip away, and your effort will be in vain.. When you strive to make a difference, be a go-getter, take initiative. Go to the person you want to inspire.. and come to them as a continuous source of inspiration, light, and loving care. KEEP IT COMING! Never give up when you want to reveal to someone the true beauty and wisdom of Hashem. Use your great gift of communication– speech– and speak sincerely and passionately, and penetrate them, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe said: “Speak with words from the heart, and they will enter the heart.”
GET INSPIRED, AND SPREAD THE LIGHT!
(* Footnote: How were the Signs miracles and plagues? “Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in Egypt, and ten at the Sea. Ten plagues did the Holy One, Blessed is He, bring upon the Egyptians in Egypt, and ten at the Sea” (Pirkei Avos, 5:5). Every plague that befell the Egyptians, that was not upon the Jews, was considered a neis on its own. )
The Messenger Bird