• August 11th, 2023
  • Av 24th, 5783


Come to Pharaoh

Presented By
Torah Contributor

Come vs. Go

The portion of Bo opens with G-d saying to Moses: “Come to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart”. The question is why G-d uses the word “Come”, when it would seem more appropriate to have said “Go to Pharaoh”. The Zohar and commentators agree that the wording reflects the fact that at this point, the beginning of the 8th plague, G-d was “with” Moses and was going to accompany him to overcome the power and stranglehold which Pharaoh maintained over the Israelites. He uses the word “come” in order to show that he was ushering Moses along side him into the highest chamber of Pharaoh’s evil in order for him to come face-to-face with this level of darkness. Only by coming directly into contact with Pharaoh – with G-d by his side, could Moses truly leave Egypt and break the bounds of slavery. So too in our own lives, it is not until we face our conflicts head on, as opposed to avoiding discomfort and misunderstanding, that we can finally break through. When we truly face our fears and the issues in our lives, we find freedom.

The 10 Plagues

This week we read about the final three (of ten) plagues being unleashed upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Rather than calamities used to intimidate and punish Pharaoh, the Kabbalists consider the plagues as a way to cleanse or remove the covers (klipot) on the 10 seeds of creation (10 Sephirot). In Genesis, each time it says “and G-d said”, a seed of creation was formed. The klipot were built up over time with a variety of negative events including the original sin in the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, the Tower of Babel and others. The plagues serve to cleanse and clear the way for the 10 Utterances or Commandments received by Moses on Mt. Sinai, manifesting G-d’s word in the physical reality. Bo includes the final three plagues associated with the top three Sephirot (moving upwards) of Binah (locusts), Chochmah (darkness) and Keter (slaying of the first born). These Sephirot represent the head, our thoughts and consciousness, and through these final plagues we can break through our blockages and access our full potential. With the proper consciousness, we are able to break the bounds of slavery both in Egypt and in our own lives this week.

The Secret of the Mezzuzah

In order to protect the Israelites from the slaying of the first born, G-d tells Moses to instruct the people to smear the blood of a lamb of their doorposts. When He sees the blood, He will know to pass over the home and spare the children. This passage provides great mystical insight into the power of the mezuzah. First, the Aramaic word for doorposts is mezuzot and it was only in modern times that it became an object affixed to a doorpost. The numerical value of the Aramaic word is 460 – the same numerical value of Nun, Yud, Tav – one of the 72 Names of G-d, revealed by the Kabbalists to have the energy of immortality and “death of death.” Also, if you rearrange the letters of mezuzot, you get “zaz mavet”, which also means to remove death. Death can take many forms – negatively affecting relationships, health and business. With this understanding, and by having a mezuzah on your doorpost, you literally help to prevent the angel of death from entering your home.

Passover & the Power of Restriction

In advance of the Israelites finally leaving Egypt, G-d describes in great detail the holiday of Passover and the specific prohibition against eating leavened bread and grain during the 7-day festival. At the literal level, this story describes the requirements set forth by G-d to eat matzah and to remove any chametz – leavened products – from the household from the 14th day through the 21st day of the month of Nissan (described in the portion as the first month of the year). When we take a deeper look at the spiritual significance of this requirement, we see how it can help improve our lives. The Kabbalists consider bread and leavened products as representative of “ego”. Bread expands and rises – almost like a person filled with pride, puffing themselves up. It is only through the elimination of ego that we can achieve true freedom in our lives and spiritual freedom from slavery in Egypt. By restricting and eliminating chametz, specifically during Passover, we can break free and achieve freedom from any of the things to which we are bound.

In sum, we finally achieve freedom from Egypt during the third week of the six-week period known as the Shovavim after G-d unleashes the last three plagues. During the process we are shown the secrets and power of the mezuzah to eliminate death from our homes. Most importantly, we learn that by not using leavened products during Passover we can reduce our ego (desire to receive for the self alone) and connect to the energy of freedom for the entire year.