Torah Weekly

For the week ending 31 January 2009 / 6 Shevat 5769

Parshat Bo

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe that He is hardening Pharaoh's heart so that through miraculous plagues the world will know for all time that He is the one true G-d. Pharaoh is warned about the plague of locusts and is told how severe it will be. Pharaoh agrees to release only the men, but Moshe insists that everyone must go. During the plague, Pharaoh calls for Moshe and Aharon to remove the locusts, and he admits he has sinned. G-d ends the plague but hardens Pharaoh's heart, and again Pharaoh fails to free the Jews. The country, except for the Jewish People, is then engulfed in a palpable darkness. Pharaoh calls for Moshe and tells him to take all the Jews out of Egypt, but to leave their flocks behind. Moshe tells him that not only will they take their own flocks, but Pharaoh must add his own too. Moshe tells Pharaoh that G-d is going to bring one more plague, the death of the first-born, and then the Jews will leave Egypt. G-d again hardens Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh warns Moshe that if he sees him again, Moshe will be put to death. G-d tells Moshe that the month of Nissan will be the chief month. The Jewish people are commanded to take a sheep on the 10th of the month and guard it until the 14th. The sheep is then to be slaughtered as a Pesach offering, its blood put on their door-posts, and its roasted meat eaten. The blood on the door-post will be a sign that their homes will be passed-over when G-d strikes the first-born of Egypt. The Jewish People are told to memorialize this day as the Exodus from Egypt by never eatingchametzon Pesach. Moshe relays G-d's commands, and the Jewish People fulfill them flawlessly. G-d sends the final plague, killing the first-born, and Pharaoh sends the Jews out of Egypt. G-d tells Moshe and Aharon the laws concerning the Pesach sacrifice,pidyon haben(redemption of the first-born son) andtefillin.


Das Kapital

“For I have hardened his heart…” (10:1)

Zurich. The Barnsdorfer Hotel. 2 AM

Earlier that day world-famous Jewish philanthropist Gavriel Manreich had signed a deal, months in the making, that would net his property development company a cool 100 million dollars.

After a deal like that, with good reason you can feel you had a good day.

He wasn’t really asleep, but at 2 o’clock in the morning he was sure that he heard a gentle knocking on the door; just loud enough for someone still awake to hear.

Pulling on his dressing gown, Gavriel made his way to the door, and when he opened it he was somewhat surprised to the see the holy face of the Nizhvorner Rebbe smiling at him.

“Gavriel, I wanted to wish you Mazal Tov. I just heard you pulled off an amazing deal. May it be with much hatzlacha and bracha!”

Ever the gentleman, Gavriel invited the Rebbe into his suite.

“Would his Holiness join me for a l’chaim?” he inquired.

“Just a large one!” replied the Rebbe.

Gavriel ushered the Rebbe into a large plush armchair. Patiently, he listened to a sad tale as the Rebbe told of the finances of Nizhvorner's Torah learning institutions; how many families had plummeted below the poverty line and were spiraling into un-payable and ever-increasing debt.

Gavriel heard the Rebbe out, gave him an extraordinarily generous donation even by Manreich tzedaka giving standards.

As he handed the check to the Rebbe he said, “I’m happy to help the Rebbe at any time, but could I ask the Rebbe a question? Couldn’t this have waited till the morning?”

The Rebbe replied, “Right now Gavriel you see this money as profit; tomorrow it will already have become capital. People don’t like eating into capital — even for tzedaka.”

Pharaoh suffered from terminal gratitude amnesia. By enslaving the Jewish People he conveniently forgot that it was Yosef the Jew who saved Egypt and made it the most powerful empire that the world had ever seen. By his own evil stubbornness he ignored the lessons of seven mind and body shaking plagues, with the result that G-d hardened his heart and took away the gift of freedom of choice.

None of us are immune from gratitude amnesia. The human mind is a wonderfully flexible organ. It’s all too easy to think that what we own is our own capital. It’s not. Every penny we have is no more than a windfall from the One “Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall”.

  • Sources: Based on a story heard from Rabbi Nota Schiller

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