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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bo

Parshat Bo

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Bo                                                                               Print Version
6th of Shevat, 5782 | January 8, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Nachas From Our Children

We’ve all heard the term before – nachas. It literally means pleasure or satisfaction, and refers to the proud feeling parents have when seeing their children excel and follow in the ways of a respectable life as a Jew. But, alongside this, there is something we all know too: it is not our goal as a parent to have nachas from our children. Every parent wants to have nachas from their children, but that's not where our sights are set. Our molding of our children’s character is not bent on generating nachas from them. Otherwise, they would turn into a miniature version of us – the parent – and our child’s own individuality and life’s choices would be a reflection of us and not them. That’s not a great life to have for a son or daughter where the future of who they are is determined by someone else.

To this end, a parent’s role is to help a child navigate life, thereby achieving what they are capable of, and by being an example to them. Children don't have to walk in your footsteps. They have to walk in their own footsteps. If you went to Harvard, they don't have to go to Harvard. If you went to the Mir yeshiva, they don't need to go to the Mir. It might be the right decision for them to go Harvard or the Mir, and maybe they will do so. But if they don’t, that should be perfectly alright with us as parents. Because the goal is not to generate nachas; if our child follows in our footsteps does not determine if we parented our children well. Yes, we want them to follow in the footsteps of a Jewish life, with Torah values and ideals. Those are the footsteps to follow in. But our own personal ones; those will be paved over by their own road and become a legacy created by their own choices and decisions.

My rebbe, Rav Noach Orlowek, would quote his rebbe, Rav Simcha Wasserman zt”l, who used to say that the reason there was a generation gap in American Jewry and why so many families had children put their tefillin away when they arrived from Europe was because, “My son, the Doctor.” In Europe, there was a limited array of career choices. The trajectory of life for the majority of Jewish children was vastly different from Europe to America. And those prospects impacted the expectation parents had of their children. You want to be a shoemaker? A money lender? Whatever brought in financial support to a family was often the choice.

But when families arrived in America and the prospects widened and expanded, and the possibility of entering purported prestigious fields such as the medical one became realistic, that was often where parents set their goal: my son, the doctor. To have your son be a doctor would bring honor and nachas to you, as a parent. And for good reason. But as a parent, that didn’t make it the right reason. It wasn’t therefore the right move to overly encourage and push your child if that’s not what truly suited them.

What, in fact, stands out about many shuls nowadays is the presence of several different Gabbaim (attendees to the shul premises and its services). There is gabbai rishon, gabbai sheini, etc. Where did this come from? In Eastern Europe, with the challenges of finding a job and earning good pay, communities would often give people something to do for a nominal amount. It would cover the expenses for their family for that week. And what was that job? Positions in shul. They were often created in order to form opportunities for men to earn work and support their families, at least to a minimum degree.

Upon arriving in America, therefore, you can imagine how enticing it must have been for parents to know that their child could now work to obtain a good-paying and well-respected job as a doctor. Imagine what it would take to keep quiet and allow your child to find themselves, to discover what it is that they want to do in their life when your mind is running with thoughts, “I know how difficult it was to earn just a few dollars in Europe; all I want is for my child to have a different life.” It stemmed from noble and caring intentions, from deep love for a great future for the child. It was rooted in a loving heart. But we’d all agree that a child must find what it is in life that they want to do.

Truthfully, our opinion is an opinion and just that. We have insight, but that doesn’t mean that our children need to follow the prescription we have for them, and if they don’t, that we are misguiding them. To the contrary, we are letting them find and earn their own wings in life. There’s nothing more satisfying to a child than that. Be there for them, and yet let them find themselves under your care. It matters what they think, but not more what your child thinks. Respect their opinion and their decision. It’s the key to helping a child navigate through life, said Rav Simcha Wasserman. How right he was.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Come With Me

Our Parsha commences with the words, “Bo el Pharoah.” “Bo” is understood in this context to mean “to go”, as HaShem is instructing Moshe to go to Pharaoh and plead on behalf of the Jewish people. The word “bo” is usually translated as “to come”, while the Hebrew word for “to go” is “leich”. (For example, when HaShem said to our Patriarch Avraham “lech-lecha”, meaning “go for yourself”.)

Why does the chumash use the word “bo”? HaShem is telling Moshe, and all future generations, that we are never alone, that He is always with us. “Bo – Come with Me.” HaShem is always by our side. Of course, Moshe had his fears. It was Moshe who said “Mi onichi ki eileich el Pharaoh – Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh.”(Shemos 3:11)

Moshe also voiced concern about Pharaoh listening to his words, as he had a speech impediment. “Va’ani aral sefosayim – And I have sealed lips.” (Shemos 6:12. HaShem, who knows our innermost thoughts, and can see into our hearts and neshamos, said to Moshe, “Bo – Come with Me. Don’t be afraid. You are not alone.”

We all have “Pharoahs” in our lives, be it financial insecurities, health problems, family and other interpersonal relationship issues, or workplace challenges. No one is immune to life’s trials and tribulations. Life can be stressful, at times even traumatic. We may feel alone, abandoned, without anyone to turn to. But, in truth, we are never alone. HaShem is always by our side.

Dovid HaMelech, King David, who lived with so much pain and suffering, composed Tehillim, the Book of Psalms. Through his words, he gives us all much hope and strength. He reassures that when we cry out, HaShem hears our tefillos and sees our pain. “He who implants the ear, shall He not hear? He who fashions the eye, shall He not see?” (Tehillim 94). Elsewhere, King David writes “I lift up my eyes to the mountains… my help comes from HaShem, Maker of heaven and earth.” (Tehillim 121)

Whenever we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, know that HaShem is always with us. Ready to guide us, ready to direct us and allay our fears.

The Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859), was known for his sharp, wise comments. An agnostic man once approached the Rebbe saying, “I’m searching all over for G-d, but I can’t find Him.” To which the Kotzker promptly responded, “G-d can be found wherever He is given entry.”

HaShem is ready to say “Bo – Come with Me”, we just have to let Him in.

My mother a”h, would always make a point of asking HaShem to help her find the proper words when teaching and lecturing. Before speaking, the Rebbetzin would say a silent prayer from Psalm 51, the prayer that precedes our daily Amidah. “HaShem sifasai tiftach - HaShem, open my lips, ufi yagid te’hilosecha – that my mouth may declare Your praise.”

We all have our “Bo” moments in life. Times when we truly feel that HaShem’s presence is with us.

Several years ago, I had to undergo a difficult eye surgery. As I was being wheeled into the OR, I kept repeating to myself words from the bedtime Shema. “Besheim HaShem Elokei Yisroel… In the name of HaShem, the G-d of Israel, may (the angels) Michoel be at my right, Gavriel at my left, Uriel before me, Rephael behind me, and above my head, the presence of HaShem”.

I also remembered that my mother always explained that the reason we use the phrase “sholom aleichem”, in the plural form, even when greeting an individual, is because no Jew is ever alone. We are in the constant company of HaShem’s malochim, protecting us and guiding us through our life’s journeys.

Praying, and actually feeling, that I was surrounded by HaShem’s angels, and that HaShem was watching over me from above, calmed my anxious spirit, and gave me peace of mind, heart and soul.

This week’s parsha closes on a high note. Yes – Bnei Yisroel are really going to be leaving the hardships of Egypt behind them. Yes, after so many years of slavery and oppression, all may have seemed lost and hopeless. Yet, HaShem showed that in an instant, miracles can happen, and Bnei Yisroel was about to experience freedom and independence.

The Midrash Lekach Tov on Megillas Esther teaches that “yeshuas HaShem ke-heref ayin – the salvation from HaShem can come as quick as the blink of an eye.”Just as HaShem walked with Moshe, and walked with the Jewish nation, so too, does He walk with us. When everything seems dark, when we think that we are at the end of the rope, let’s remember the message of “Bo”.

We should all merit that HaShem’s presence accompany us always.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Faster and Faster

Today, a prescription for Ritalin is about as common as a prescription for reading glasses. Now, when I was young, there was no Ritalin. People will tell you that had there been Ritalin back then, many kids would have done much better at school. They'll tell you that ADD and ADHD have always been there; it was just undiagnosed. But there’s something else to consider.
Maybe the reason there's been a large increase in ADD and ADHD is that kids' minds are processing information that much faster, and as teachers and communicators, we just are too slow and too boring for today's generation. And rather than using medication to get the brains of our children to focus, our presentation and delivery will have to be much faster and much more stimulating.

Today, even very young children grasp technology with a speed and comfort that terrifies their elders. How can they understand the language and the interface of these machines so intuitively? Maybe the answer is Moore's law. Moore's law is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense, integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. In light fashion, microprocessor prices, memory capacity sensors and even the number and the size of pixels in digital cameras are all improving at roughly exponential rates as well. Moore's law has been applied not just to technology, but also to accelerating change in social and cultural progress. Maybe we can apply Moore's law also to the processing speeds of our minds.

What if the minds of our children process information at much faster speeds than, say, 30 years ago? Futurists tell us that we should expect more and more profound changes in the future, leading to a point of what's called singularity, where the pace of change becomes so accelerated that it leads to an apocalyptic event where the world as we know it morphs into something beyond our imagination.

Now, this singularity event sounds very much like an event the Jews have been waiting for, for a very long time indeed. It's called Bias Ha’Mashiach, the coming of the Messiah. It says in this week's Torah portion, “And you will eat it – the Pesach offering – in haste.” The mystical sources explain that the exodus from Egypt was experienced as a moment of singularity, a moment faster than time itself, a total rupture with the past racing to meet the new reality. As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end.

This world is accelerating fast and faster to its moment of climax, to a world of singularity, quite literally when all mankind will proclaim, “Hashem is One.” As it says in Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, “The voice of my beloved, behold, it came suddenly to redeem me as if leaping over mountains, skipping over hills.”

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