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Parshat Bo

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Bo 5781                                                                   Print Version
10th of Shevat, 5781 | January 23, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein
Lowliest to the Highest

Of all the blessings we make, whether it be over food or otherwise, there is only one single instance in which we make mention of Hashem’s Kisei HaKavod (Throne of Glory). And that is after using the restroom when we recite the blessing of Asher Yatzar. We thank Hashem for giving us the ability to take care of our bodily needs. We don't even invoke the Kisei HaKavod on Rosh Hashanah, and yet when a person comes out of the restroom, they acknowledge that it is revealed and known before the Throne of Glory that had Hashem not given us this wondrous capability, we couldn’t exist for a moment.

Why is this the only blessing in which we invoke the Kisei HaKavod?

The Vilna Gaon (Imrei Noam, Meseches Brachos) explains that it is to emphasize that even the lowliest bodily function is not beneath the purview of G-d from the loftiest of His abode, the Kisei HaKavod. Hashem is not too high up to be concerned with our lowest need. As we say in our davening, “Ram al kol goyim Hashem,” G-d is exalted over all the nations of the world. However, even with that, G-d Himself, from the loftiest of places on High, cares for even our lowest needs.

But there is another dimension to consider. As an introduction to the plague of Blood, Hashem tells Moshe to meet Pharaoh in the morning, when he will be standing at the Nile River. Rashi writes that Pharaoh would be at the Nile River in the morning to take care of his bodily needs. He went specifically in the morning because he professed himself to be a god who doesn't need to use the restroom. He would therefore wake up early and go to the Nile and take care of what he needed, when nobody would see him. Hashem therefore sent Moshe to go at that specific hour.

As our Sages teach, based upon the words of the Prophet, Pharaoh proclaimed, “The Nile is mine. I created myself; I am G-d.” In order to do so, he needed to hide the fact that he was a human being with bodily needs. Therefore, what Pharaoh needed to acknowledge most is that there is indeed a G-d, and the best time to do so would be immediately after using the bathroom, when it would be abundantly clear that he is only human.

This explains another dilemma. Why was Pharaoh so focused on ensuring that no one would know of his whereabouts in using the restroom, but we find no mention of his wishing to hide that he ate and drank? If he wished to give off the impression that he was a god, why not avoid any physically related activity completely?

Perhaps, in line with the above, because taking care of one’s needs overtly highlights the lowest quality of man, Pharaoh wished to draw attention away from it. One cannot fail to acknowledge, at such a time, that they are within the human realm.

It is for this very reason that Hashem instructed Moshe to visit Pharaoh at specifically such a time. He wished for Moshe to prompt Pharaoh into unequivocal acknowledgement that he was indeed not a deity of any sort. It would be undeniable at such a point.

Taking this into account, it is very true that every time we take care of our needs, aside from feeling deep gratitude for G-d’s beneficence, it is the most opportune time when we can fully grasp and recognize that G-d is the ultimate ruler and King over the world. The same way Hashem sent Moshe to Pharaoh at a time he was taking care of his needs to drive home the point that Hashem is the ruler and master of the world, so too, when we use the facilities, we draw attention to the fact that G-d is in charge and does so from on High upon his Throne of Glory.
It is a profound message. Experiencing the lowliest element of our life is the moment in which we crown Hashem, the King of Kings, in the most glorious of ways.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
What’s Your Name?

Shemos, the second of the Five Books of the Torah. Though it is referred to as the Book of Exodus, shemos translates to mean “names.” In fact, the opening passage is, “These are the names of Bnei Yisroel (Shemos 1:1).

Our rabbis teach that the Jewish people merited to be redeemed from Egypt because they retained their names, their language and their way of dress. They kept their names, their Jewish identity. They maintained their language, a manner of speech which was with filled with kindness and understanding, becoming of children of Hashem. And they upheld proper dress attire, which was modest and refined.

Upon naming a child, a parent is blessed with the gift of prophesy. Though not always recognized at first, there is a name-soul connection. In fact, the middle two letters of the Hebrew word neshamah, soul, are shin and mem, which together spell the word sheim, name. The name is the essence of the soul.

The Book of Shemos introduces us to Amram and Yocheved, parents of Aharon, Miriam and Moshe. All three children grew to be leaders of Am Yisroel. Their teachings and accomplishments are still studied and remembered. They are role models for all time. Even now, thousands of years later, we strive to emulate their ways, their deeds and their leadership qualities.

Under the best of circumstances, raising children is challenging. We must ask, how did Amram and Yocheved raise three great children during those turbulent times in Egypt. Children who grew to be bastions of faith and kindness.

Perhaps the answer can be found in their names.

Amram, from the two Hebrew words, Am, nation, and Rom, exalted. An exalted nation. Yocheved, in the Hebrew language begins with the letter “yud”. The yud signifies Hashem’s name. It is followed by the letters vov, chof, bais and dalet, the same letters which comprise the word kovod, honor. To give honor to Hashem.

As parents, Amram and Yocheved emphasized to their children what it meant to be part of an Am-Rom, to recognize that they represent a chosen people. To know that being chosen comes with a responsibility to bring kindness, blessing and healing to the world. To make it a better place. To be a Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying Hashem’s name. They were raised cocooned with the knowledge that Hashem is always with them. To live with emunah and bitachon, faith and trust in Hashem. The children’s names themselves are also very telling about their unique missions in life.

Though Moshe was named Tuvia at birth, he is called Moshe, the name given to him by Pharaoh’s daughter, when she rescued him from the river. Using the name Moshe always reminded him, and should remind us, of the importance of living with “an attitude of gratitude.”

Rashi notes that Miriam is a contraction of the Hebrew words mar, bitter, and yom, day. Miriam was born during a very difficult and painful time for the Jewish people. At the same time, within her name is an allusion to the Hebrew word mered, rebellious. Miriam’s positive spirit teaches us that if we will it, we have the power to “rebel”, to stand up, to rise above whatever adversity and challenges life confronts us with.

Aharon has within the name the words ohr-light and har-mountain. As the first Kohein Gadol, High Priest, Aharon brought light and illumination to the Jewish people, giving them strength to climb the mountains of life.

Amram and Yocheved raised their children to “live” the message which their names conveyed.

To my parents, shemos, Jewish names were always important. They were a connection to past generations. A continuation of the family’s lineage. I was named Chaya Sora, after my paternal grandmother who perished in the Holocaust. Each of my siblings, Yisroel, Slova Chana and Osher Anshil, likewise carry the names of our grandparents. Our names are links to the past, affirming that the chain isn’t broken. With our names, comes the obligation to preserve their legacy.

I grew up in suburban Long Island, at a time when religious communities were few and far between. I was the lone “Chaya Sora” amongst many Sallys and Staceys, Jills and Joanies. My father would tell me about his mother. How her children were her life. How she loved and cared for them. That inculcated in me – her namesake – a tremendous source of pride.

I will never forget the story my father shared with me about his older brother, Yosef Dov z”l. Yosef Dov was taken by the Germans before the rest of the family was deported. From that day on, my grandmother, Chaya Sora, wouldn’t sleep in her bed at night, but sat in a chair all night long. She would say “How can I lay down when my Yosef Dov isn’t here?”

A mother’s love. A mother’s heartache.

My father lost all his siblings, but one, in the Holocaust. Three of my children carry their names. Yosef Dov, Rivkie, Nechama Fradel. The links remain. Thank G-d, today, I have my own grandchildren, two of whom are named after my parents, Meshulem and Esther. Once again, the chain is connected.

Encinitas, California. A totally secular vacation community, where my mother was lecturing. She broke her hip and I flew out to be with her. A young doctor entered the hospital room. My mother asked him his name, to which he replied, “Dr. Shapiro”. Once again, the Rebbetzin asked his name. “Dr. Shapiro” he replied, this time in a louder tone, thinking that perhaps my mother hadn’t heard him. The Rebbetzin, a”h heard him very well, but had her own intentions. This time, my mother asked, “What’s your real name?” He replied “Bruce Shapiro”, and pointed to his nameplate.

The Rebbetzin was never one to give up, even amidst pain. “Surely, you had a bubby, a zaidy. What did they call you?” “Boruchel…. Boruchel”, he said wistfully. “They called me Boruchel.”

“Boruchel, do you have any children?” A smiled spread across his face. “I have two adorable little girls.” He pulled out his phone and shared pictures of them.

After admiring them, my mother got to her point. “What’s a Boruchel doing in Encinitas? Who will teach your children about Hashem, their Torah, their heritage? How will they understand that they have a G-d given mission in this world?”

The kind doctor stayed and stayed. My mother put her pain aside, and he put his phone on silent. The doctor returned day after day. He helped my mother with her hip, and the Rebbetzin gave him a daily infusion of Torah.

From the slave fields of Egypt to the hospital corridor in Encinitas, a Jew must always remember his Jewish name … his real identity.

Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser
Star of Your Movie

What if I would tell you that not only do you have a role in the most remarkable movie that has ever been made, but that you are the star?

You are the star in your life. What’s the proof? It can't be anyone else, because everything is going on all around you. Now you’re probably thinking, “What is he talking about? What star and what movie!”

Let’s say you decide to walk out to a hallway. You can even try it right now. What would happen? If a camera was on you, the camera would show you walking through the lobby and into the hall. Then you decide to turn the corner and what’s happening now? The camera is on you again. Your world is everywhere you are. Your life is only where you are. You can hear and see other people, and even be told about what’s going on around the world, but ultimately, you are you, sitting, standing, walking or running where you are. Your life. Your actions. Your movie.
Even if you want to outrun the film crew, and start running down the hall, you won’t get anywhere. Because you are still with yourself. The camera is within you. You cannot escape yourself and your own life. What about when you go to sleep? The camera is still on you.

But here’s the more important point: if you’re the star of the movie, stop playing the role of an extra.

Don’t be an extra who gets paid minimum wage just to walk down a street or drive by in a car. Extras do act, but they are secondary, not primary to the movie. They are extras to fill a scene and create an effect.

How many people lead their lives playing the role of an extra in someone else's movie? How many times have you noticed people idolizing, following or fawning over someone else besides themselves, wishing and perhaps pining they could be like them? If you have, you’ve seen an extra of a movie. And the saddest part is that it is not even their own movie.

In Lashon HaKodesh, there is no operative word for followers, because as Jews, we are all the stars in our lives and not ancillary, second-fiddle actors. We have movies and we are the stars.

Imagine a movie star who gets paid $30 million says one day, “I’m tired of being a star; I just want to be an extra for a change.” He tells this to the makeup artist, who gives in. “Let's play a trick. I'm going to dress you up like someone totally different, and you're just going to be on the set as an extra.”

The scene is a country western with horses walking by, and the fellow is dressed up like a cowboy, leaning against a corral fence. Meanwhile, the producer begins running around looking everywhere for the star. “Where is he?” exclaims the producer, exasperated. He finally walks right past him. “James?” “Yeah?” “What are you doing?” “Come on,” pushes James, “I just want to be an extra for a change.” “Get out there! The world's waiting for you! People pay millions of dollars to see you!”

Chazal tell us, “B’derech she’adam rotze leileich molichim osoh - The way in which a person wants to go, he is led” (Makkos 10b). The world has been created to conspire to your will. Not only are you in the most extraordinary movie ever, and not only are you the star, but you're in charge of how the movie turns out.

Our closest family and honest friends ensure that we are directing our movie well and appropriately, and in a way that will ensure it comes out beautiful. We can't do it without the mentorship. No one goes at it alone. You don't climb Mount Everest without a Sherpa guide. Everyone who climbs Mount Everest knows that you hire a Sherpa. But what's harder to climb: Mount Everest or life?

Hashem is the executive director, our family and friends the cast, and we, the stars. With such a partnership, it's up to us to make sure the movie comes out as extraordinary as we know it can.

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