Parshat Bo: The Persistence of God and Pharaoh

Mara Forman
Mara Forman (Courtesy)

By Mara Forman

This week’s Torah portion is Bo. I find the story of Bo fascinating. When I originally read my Torah portion, the conflict seemed to be between Moses and Pharaoh. But the more I thought about it, I realized that the conflict was really between God and Pharaoh. After all, Moses was really only doing what God told him to do.

A question that I asked myself regarding the roles of God, Moses and Pharaoh is: Why didn’t God just force Pharaoh to free the Jews without involving Moses? I think the answer to that question is found in God wanting two things: 1) He wanted to make a mockery of the Egyptians because they did not believe in Hashem; and 2) He wanted the Israelites and their descendants — the ancestors of the Jewish people — to know that God had proven His almighty presence to the Israelites and others. In that way, God was trying to teach everyone a lesson — Moses, Pharaoh, the Egyptian people and, most importantly, the Israelites.

Another aspect of the story that interested me was the persistence of God and Pharaoh. If you think about it, they both used similar traits throughout the story, just in very different ways. For example, God was persistent in the way that He was trying to get His people to be free, and knew that giving up was not an option. So, He continued to tell Moses to ask Pharaoh the same question no matter how many times he had to ask or how many plagues that had to happen in order for them to be free. On the other hand, Pharaoh was being stubborn and letting his people suffer just to keep his slaves. He was putting his own people in harm’s way and thinking only about himself.

There are a lot of parallels to what happens in this story to what is happening in Israel and the larger world at this moment. Although we are no longer slaves, discrimination against the Jews is still common, and it is up to us to fight for our beliefs and freedom. That is why Jewish leaders and each of us throughout the world need to be like God in this story every day: persistent, strong and, most importantly, never giving up on what we believe in.

Mara Forman is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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