Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Leaving Egypt: The Importance of Acting as One and the Torah Portion of Bo

This week's Torah portion begins with Hashem telling Moshe, "Come [Boh] to Pharaoh..." Much has been written about how the verse states, "Come" instead of "Go," which implies that by going to Pharaoh, Moshe was actually coming closer to G-d Himself.

Another interesting aspect of the way the sentenced is phrased (which I have not seen discussed elsewhere) is the fact that the phrase is said in the singular. G-d does not tell Aharon to come, yet Aharon does come along with Moshe to face Pharaoh. This, in and of itself, can be explained, as G-d had said that Moshe would be a "master/god" over Pharaoh, while Aharon would serve as Moshe's "prophet," his spokesperson.  (Exodus 7:1)

However, there is an additional element that makes the use of the singular verb conjugation somewhat more perplexing: the very sentence that describes Moshe and Aharon coming to speak to Pharaoh is also in the singular!

3So Moses and Aaron came [sing.] to Pharaoh and said to him, "So said the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, and they will worship Me.ג. וַיָּבֹא משֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן אֶל פַּרְעֹה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִים עַד מָתַי מֵאַנְתָּ לֵעָנֹת מִפָּנָי שַׁלַּח עַמִּי וְיַעַבְדֻנִי:

The Hebrew word used is Vayavoh (he came) when it would appear that Vayavohu (they came) would have been the correct word choice. Also, immediately following the very moment that Hashem appointed Aharon as Moshe's prophet, there too, the words used are Vayavoh Moshe v'Aharon (Moshe and Aharaon came [sing.] to Pharaoh). (Exodus 7:10)

Prior to this, during the first time that Moshe and Aharon come before Pharaoh, the word used is in fact "Bahu," they came [plural]. (Exodus 5:1) Not only were they not successful on that occasion, but Pharaoh actually increased the burden of the Jewish people, which led Moshe to even complain to G-d and ask Him why He was doing this to His people.

The singular form had been used also at a previous occasion regarding Moshe and Aharon when they went to speak with the Jewish elders (Vayelech Moshe v'Aharon) (Exodus 4:29). At that time, they were successful in convincing the elders that the time for redemption had in fact come.

Vayavoh Moshe v'Aharon is used another time in the Torah, at the moment of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. (Leviticus 9:23) As Aharon is performing the inauguration sacrifices, Moshe and Aharon come to the Tent of Meeting and bless the people, and the Glory of Hashem appears to the entire people. Immediately after, the sons of Aharon, Nadab and Abihu, enter the Holy of Holies and improperly bring an incense offering. They are thereby both consumed. In direct contrast to Moshe and Aharon, when describing the actions of Nadab and Abihu, the Torah uses only plural verb conjugations.

We see a similar contrast of plural versus singular conjugations when it comes to the encampments of the Jewish people in the desert. The journeys and encampments are described in the plural, except for the encampment by Mount Sinai itself. There, Rashi explains, the Jews were like "one person with one heart." This great harmony among us was actually an essential requirement for acquiring the Torah itself.

The lesson appears to be a simple one. In order to be successful in doing G-d's will, the ultimate unity is extremely important. We have to seek it to such an extent that we do not even wish to be accounted for as separate entities. Let us learn from Moshe and Aharon and reach out and help one another in brotherly love. Let us also be willing to be helped by others, and let those who know more than us lead us in the right direction. As stated in Pirkei Avot, make for yourself a master and acquire a friend. This way you will be infinitely closer to your true Master and Friend. The more we realize that we are all One, the closest we will be to the One, the Only One.

When I imagine the Jewish people leaving Egypt, I always imagine them holding hands...

It was because of baseless hatred that the Temple was destroyed, and it will be through baseless love that it will be rebuilt. May we soon merit to regain the harmony we achieved at Mount Sinai, and merit to see the Temple rebuilt. May the Alef and Mem of Aharon and Moshe, followed by the Alef and Mem of Esther and Mordechai, finally be followed by the Alef and Mem of Eliyahu and Mashiach, speedily, in our days.


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