Parshat Bo - 5761
the servants of Pharaoh said to him
'Do you not yet
purpose of the Ten Plagues was to teach Egypt and the rest of the world a
profound lesson; namely that there is a G-d in the world, Who is Almighty
and Just. Moshe is told this at
the beginning of Parshat Vaera, "And
Egypt shall know that I am G-d,
when I extend My Hand over Egypt, and I take the Children of Israel from
their midst" (Shemot/Vaera
indeed, beginning with the first plague of the appearance of Blood in the
Nile and ending with the tenth plague of the Smiting of the First-Born,
there is either explicit reference to the
knowledge of HaShem
as the Creator (seven out of ten); for example, "in
order that you shall know that there is none like HaShem, our G-d" (Shemot/Vaera
8:6). Or the implicit
acknowledgement of the distinction between the Egyptian People, who
were suffering the effects of
the plague, and the Jewish People, who were not (three out of ten); for
example, "And Pharaoh sent out for a report and learned that from
the cattle of the Children of Israel, there had not died even one" (Shemot/Vaera
course, the demonstration of the plagues was also meant as a lesson to the
Children of Israel and their
descendants, "And in order that
you may tell in the ears of your children and
grand-children what I have done to Egypt and My signs which I have
done among them; that you may know
that I am the L-rd" (Shemot/Bo 10:2).
in the Book of Shemot, in Parshat Yitro, there is an account of another
event of towering importance in
Jewish History and the History of the World; namely, the Revelation of G-d
at Mt. Sinai, to give the
Torah, His Divine Teaching, to the Jewish People and, through them, to all
of Human Civilization.
The Torah is exemplified there by the Ten Commandments.
In the First Commandment,
G-d introduces Himself by saying, "I
am the L-rd your G-d Who has taken you
from the Land of Egypt, the House of Bondage" (Shemot/Yitro 20:2).
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, a great thirteenth century Spanish and Palestinian
Commentator on the Bible and the Talmud, asks implicitly, "Why is it
that HaShem chose the event of
the Exodus from Egypt as the event
by which He should mainly be known, rather than the Creation of the World?
Wondrous as the Exodus indeed is, does it and any other possible
historical event not pale in comparison to the Creation of the entire
Cosmos, from the egg of an ant (the RAMBAN's
example of an extremely tiny entity) to the highest of the Heavenly Spheres
(his example of an extremely large entity)?
And he answers that the difference is that for the event of the
Exodus from Egypt, which demonstrates
the Might, the Will and the Involvement of HaShem with the World, there was
the advantage of having millions of witnesses,
who beheld and therefore had first-hand
knowledge of the truth of
the event, unlike the Creation, at which time there were no human witnesses.
the Hebrew word for "witness,"
"ed," comprised of the two letters "ayin" and "dalet"
is exactly the reverse of the Hebrew word for knowing,
"da," comprised of the same two letters but reversed in sequence
"dalet" and "ayin".
There are two types of false testimony: one is false with regard to the particulars of the case; the other is false by "virtue" of the fact that the so-called "witnesses" were not present at the event in question, but were somewhere else, and not in position to testify at all with regard to the facts of the matter (these "witnesses" are called "edim zomemim," "conspiratorial witnesses.") Both types of falsity are forbidden by the Torah. With regard to the first type of falsity, we have the knowledge of tradition, trusting in our parents, and in our grand-parents, all the way back to Sinai with regard to the Revelation, and to Egypt, with regard to the Exodus.
regard to the second type of falsity, we
know that they were there. There
is even a Midrash
that says that all Jews, born and unborn, were present at Sinai, and Moshe
specifically includes Jews of all generations in the Covenant of the Torah.
"And not with you alone do
I make this Covenant, with its rewards and punishments.
But rather, with those who are literally here today standing before
G-d, and also with those who are not here with us today"
Similarly, one of the goals of the Seder
on the first night of Pesach
is not only to identify with, but more than that, to actually feel that one
was present with our ancestors at the time of the Exodus, "In
every generation we are obligated to view ourselves as if we ourselves were
redeemed from Egypt," and
we recite the blessing "Blessed
are You our G-d and G-d of our fathers, Who
redeemed us and Who redeemed our fathers from Egypt,"
and thus we have the knowledge
of personal experience.
Yom Kippur, the Day of
Atonement, we say the "Songs Celebrating the Unity of HaShem" for
each day of the week. The "Shir HaYichud" for Shabbat
includes the following, "And in Egypt You began
to make known that You Were elevated far above other gods, by your
dealing harsh punishments to the Egyptians and to their gods.
3:18, we find, "He (Rabbi
Akiva) used to say, 'Beloved
is man, for he was created in G-d's image; it is indicative of a greater
love that it was made known to
him that he was created in G-d's image, as it is said, 'For in the image of
G-d He made man' (Sefer
Bereshit/Parshat Bereshit 9:6).
Beloved are the People Israel,
for they are described as the children
of the Omnipresent G-d; it is indicative of a greater love that it was made
known to them that they are described as children of the Omnipresent
G-d, as it is said, 'You are children to HaShem your G-d' (Devarim/Re'eh
in an exalted state in one's relationship with HaShem is a high level; knowing
that one occupies that state is considered even higher, by Rabbi Akiva.
say in the Daily "Shemoneh
Esray," "You graciously endow man with knowledge, and teach insight to a frail mortal.
Endow us graciously from Yourself with knowledge, insight and discernment.
Blessed are You, HaShem, gracious Giver
Moshe Rabbeinu's farewell address to the Children of Israel, we find Moshe
saying that after all that the
Jewish People had experienced in their relationship with G-d, "You should know by now
and be able to reflect on it in your heart, that HaShem is the True G-d, in
the Heavens above, and on the Land beneath;
there is none other" (Devarim 4:29).
to Jewish Tradition, Yehoshua,
the disciple of Moshe, composed the Prayer of "Alenu," that is
part of just about every Prayer Service of the Jewish People.
In it, he expressed the hope of the Jewish People for "Tikkun
Olam," the "Perfection of the World," when "all
inhabitants of the earth would come to recognize and to know that it is before HaShem that every knee should bow."
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel