Parshat Bo: Hard to Come by

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28 Jan 2009
Arts & Media

Knowledge is the engine

That drives man’s progress.


And curiosity it’s fuel.

A simple question can open

The most complicated door


A complicated question can

Close the simplest of issues


And the dismissal of a sincere

Question can forever turnoff

The pistoling valves that pump

Man’s journey…


So let us question the flat surface

Of what is


With the hope that perhaps we can

Dream and reach the lofty peaks

Of what could be:


G-d said to Moshe

Come to Pharaoh

For I have hardened

His heart


How could Moshe’s coming

To Pharaoh ever soften a heart

That has been hardened by the



How could the Divine, the most pure,

The most soft, ever harden anything?


Of hard facts and soft words:


At times it is hard being soft;

Just as at other times it is soft

Being hard…


At times it is hard to come…

But it is precisely at those times

That one must come to what is hard.


False followers shrink away from hard places;

True leaders come to them with reality and softness;

But a softness not ignorant of the harsh realities, a

Softness that is not a weakness but a strength, a

Softness that says: Even in the hardest, most

Difficult person, even in the hardest, most

Difficult situation, with work, hard work

One can reach the softness within…


Pharaoh made callous choices so he became callous;

He made insensitive decisions so he became insensitive −

To the extent that G-d, Reality, in whose eyes everything

Appears as it really is without pretenses or coverups, hardens

His heart. Once, the heart may have been innocent and pure, but

As the dirt started to pile up, the heart itself became soiled, as

The cuts started to accumulate the heart started to scar – you see,

Every time one breaks something, a piece of one’s own heart                     Breaks as well


The heart has become so hard, Pharaoh’s reality so distorted that

Reality itself, a reflection of our own deeds, has begun to harden

Around the already moldy crust and the possibility of change seems

To be stuck between a rock and, well, a hard place…


Come to Pharaoh


But a hard place is only as hard as the person (with)in it

Moshe: a faithful shepherd − a man who would come to a

The hardest of places, Pharaoh’s heart, because he is a leader

And leaders do anything to get theirs out of hardness…


G-d doesn’t tell Moshe what to do; only to come:

How can Reality tell Moshe how to soften the hardness

When the Reality itself seems to be hardening the heart?


But Moshe is beyond, he knows that through the process

Of the final plagues, the hardness, seemingly insurmountable,

Will begin to melt into a pliant, soft wax whose mold shapes                               Freedom


May our inner Moshe, our ability at pure redemption,

Come to the inner Pharaoh, the impure coarseness,

And turn it forever from Exile into Redemption!

Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.