Parashat Bo: The Plain Jewish Truth

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Capitol with Israel Flag
10 Jan 2008

I am writing in advance of this week’s visit by Mr. George Bush, the President of the United States, to the Holy Land on the first stop of his Middle East tour of the region’s capitals. The professed purpose of the visit is to create an alliance of “moderate” Arab states (like Saudi Arabia) against the “Islamic Fascist” state of Iran.

It is more than rumored, that the condition put forward by these Arab states to even consider such an alliance is the dismembering of the State of Israel, limb by limb, acre by acre, Jewish home by Jewish home.

This week’s divrei Torah, on the background of the Parasha, is dedicated to our esteemed guest and to his hosts – the government of Israel.

The parasha is called “BO” (come) because HaShem commanded Moshe to “come” to Pharaoh and state God’s case for freeing the Jewish nation; but it also alludes to our times and contains instructions of how we are to behave.

1- “BO” is an acrostic of the protagonists, Bush-Olmert – proving again that man’s actions and their times are inscribed in our holy Torah.

2- One might question the opening thrust of Moshe’s dialogue with Paro, which Moshe was commanded (or chose) to voice in their first meeting. It appears from the pesukim that Moshe said immediately to Paro, and extremely undiplomaticly, dictated to him “shelach et ami ve’ya’avduni” – send my people out in order that they may worship me.

Did it not appear to Moshe that such a direct maneuver might be self defeating, when approaching the absolute monarch of the world’s superpower who believes in his divine infallibility!

Might it not have been more effective to begin by telling Pharaoh of the immorality of slavery, and if that would not work then pull out the “anti-Semitic” accusation trump card?

In other words, why did Moshe not face Pharaoh on the moral, historical, or political level?

I suggest, that Moshe actually considered these approaches, but rejected them.

If Moshe would have accused Pharaoh of anti-Semitism, Pharaoh could retort, “My enslavement of the Jewish people has nothing to do with race, because I enslave many other peoples” (when the Jews left Egypt, Moshe took with him the erev rav, the mixed multitude of other peoples who were freed at the time.)

And if Moshe would have accused Pharaoh of violating the innate right of people to be free, Pharaoh could answer, “Moshe, you should be the last person to raise this issue. For who was it who introduced slavery to Egypt if not Yosef, the Jew, when he bought the Egyptian people in return for food? (end of Parshat Vayigash)-

After considering the various approaches, Moshe concludes that the only viable way to treat Pharaoh is not on the political, ethical, historical or moral arenas, but the true, pure spiritual Godly message, “shelach et ami ve’ya;avduni.”

In our time, when our secular leaders meet with their counterparts or the media, they raise the issue of Israel’s legitimacy based on the Shoah, or that we were here 2000 years ago, or on the fact that Eretz Yisrael was a wasteland waiting to be developed, or on the Bible.

However, the Moslem world counters all our claims.

The suffering of the Jews in the Shoah, was perpetrated by European nations, and it should be remedied by them. Why do the poor Palestinians have to pay the price for Auschwitz?

The Jews were here 2000 years ago, but that was long ago, and indeed Islam has been in Eretz Yisrael for the last 1300 years.

The fact that the land was under-developed does not permit “foreigners” to occupy it.

The Bible? The Saudi representative to the UN, once answered the claim of our representative that our land deed to the Holy Land is the Bible by retorting that the Bible has many other issues, such as Shabbat and Kashrut. He then looked to our representation and said,. “Mr.—- I know that you do not observe your sabbath nor do you observe the laws of kashrut. And you have no right to selectively choose from the Bible what is convenient for you, while you dismiss that which is not.”

What remains is the lesson we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu – do not meet the enemy on HIS terms, but speak your truth.

To our welcome guest, the President of the United States, and to his administration and to all Americans, a small voice from Yerushalayim calls out.

The Creator and Master of all, chose the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai from all other peoples of the world. As a sign of the covenant, He gave His people two eternal gifts – the Torah and the Land Of Israel.

The seven Noachide laws which were presented to the Gentiles of the world are: the prohibitions against murder, illicit sexual relations, idolatry, the dismembering of a live animal, the cursing of God, stealing, and the positive commandment to establish cultures based on moral laws.

In our unhappy history, the gentiles, descendants of Eisav and Yishmael, (Christianity and Islam) are guilty of violating six of the seven laws vis a vis the Jewish nation.

They murdered us; coerced us with illicit relations, forced their idols upon us, cursed our God, stole our possessions and dictated immoral laws upon us.

Mr. President, if you force or convince our government to relinquish parts of our holy land, you and our government will have violated the seventh law – do not dismember a living entity.

Historically, nations suffer calamities because of the errors of their leaders. Recent examples in the U.S. may include natural disasters like huge fires which destroyed thousands of homes, hurricanes which devastated cities, and droughts over large areas of the nation as well as financial bankruptcy, unemployment and inflation. Foreign wars which drain the nation of its fiscal resources and of its best young men and create national debts in the trillions of dollars are obvious examples.

When the President will be here, several English speaking rabbis, including myself, will meet with the media. The rabbis, who will be “PR spokesmen” were invited to attend a meeting to hear the advice of a media “expert” to prepare them for the sharp attacks of the biased media. I did not attend that meeting, even though I will be meeting the media. For me the matter is very simple. I will voice the first Rashi of the Torah, that HaShem who created the world, and is its absolute master, gave the land between the Euphrates and the Nile Rivers to the Jewish nation. There it begins and there it ends. The plain Jewish truth.

No negotiations. No compromise. But only the precedent set by our father Ya’akov before meeting Eisav – with one difference.

Ya’akov equipped himself in three ways (parashat Va’yish’lach): prayer, gifts of livestock and preparations for war.

For us, two of the three suffice: prayer and gifts, because our gifts to the modern Amalek is our preparations for war.

Shabbat Shalom, Nachman Kahana

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