Parshat Bo: Freedom as our destination

Our sages broadly discuss the use of “coming” instead of “going” to Pharaoh, and conclude that coming implies that Moses would do so accompanied by the Creator of all.

“The Lord said to Moses: ‘Come (Bo) to Pharaoh, because I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may place these signs of Mine in his midst’.” (Exodus 10:1)

In fact, there is no other way to either go or come to anywhere or anything we personally don’t have the power to transmute or transform, because any possible power only comes from the Creator. Dealing with ego is not an exception.

Ego, as well as our basic human instincts, is one of the most complex aspects of our consciousness we can’t completely control. This is not about controlling them but to direct them toward our individual and collective well being. Regarding these aspects we need in particular the company and guidance of God’s ways and attributes.

Our sages reveal for us that the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart is what contemporary psychiatry calls “the losing of free will”. This happens when one is unable to distinguish between good and evil.

It is a critical point in human consciousness when one only perceives negativity and does harm to others and himself because he can’t see any goodness at all. This is the result of obsessive negative patterns of perception and behavior that lead to one-sided approach to life.

The lesson to be learned in this biblical passage is not easy to grasp because it involves a deeper comprehension of the dynamics of our relationship with the Creator and His creation.

Losing free will as an impairment of perception has to be indeed extreme in order to make a clear contrast between darkness and light. In other words, darkness must be obscure enough to be able to fully recognize the light when it is fully manifest.

The primordial message here is that we have to be accompanied by God’s love in our dealings with material illusions and potentially negative aspects of our own consciousness, simply because we can’t do it on our individual understanding. There are material fantasies and illusions that are too far beyond our “control”.

This is the risk one takes by allowing his/her ego to be in control of those illusions. Hence the Creator “hardened” the hearts of Pharaoh and his servants to tell us that He is in charge and in control of His Creation. God does it in His ways, not ego’s ways.

“(…) and in order that you tell to the ears of your son and your son’s son how I made a mockery of the Egyptians, and My signs that I placed in them, and you will know that I am the Lord.” (10:2)

Our oral tradition tells us that four fifths of the Israelites “died” in the darkness of their selfishness and egotism, which didn’t let them help those in need around them.

“They did not see each other, and no one rose from his place for three days, but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.” (10:23)

Egotism in its darkest expression is a real killer of anything considered cherished and loved in the eyes of human consciousness.

The story of the Exodus is indeed the confrontation of total darkness with total light, with no penumbra or “gray” in between. It is either one or the other as widely stated in Judaism’s ethics. This is why Moses did not compromise on Pharaoh’s requests.

“But Moses said: ‘You too shall give sacrifices and burnt offerings into our hands, and we will make them for the Lord our God. And also our cattle will go with us; not a hoof will remain, for we will take from it to worship the Lord our God (…)’.” (10:25-26)

With no exceptions, all aspects, traits, and dimensions of our consciousness (higher and lower) must be united and together under the guidance of God’s ways and attributes. This occurs when we allow (Moses) our highest awareness of God to guide the entire consciousness in consonance with His will.

“So the Lord gave the people favor in Pharaoh’s eyes; also the man Moses was highly esteemed in the eyes of Pharaoh’s servants and in the eyes of the people.” (11:3)

Again we are reminded that every aspect of God’s creation is under His will.

“This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year.” (12:2)

This commandment joins our daily prayers to remember our exit and redemption from Egypt. It also reminds us that in every moment of our life we have to make the right choice. It is the choice between remaining in the bondage of ego’s materialistic illusions, and exiting from them through the redemption that only God’s love can give us in the midst of our worst ordeals.

It is the reminder that we must always keep in our hearts and souls.

“And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival for the Lord; throughout your generations, you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute.” (12:14)

Humbleness is the vessel represented by the unleavened bread that our ancestors ate in their transition from darkness to light.

“And you shall watch over the unleavened cakes, for on this very day I have taken your legions out of the land of Egypt (…), you shall not eat any leavening; throughout all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened cakes.” (12:17-20)

This is remarked again (13:3-7).

The unleavened bread is reiterated as the essential symbol of the way in which we abandon the land of egotism and gross materialism.

“And you shall tell your son on that day, saying: ‘Because of this, the Lord did for me when I went out of Egypt’.” (13:8)

The portion ends telling us to permanently bear this awareness in mind, heart and soul.

“And it shall be for a sign upon your hand and for ornaments between your eyes, for with a mighty hand did the Lord take us out of Egypt.” (13:16)

Only God’s love takes us from our darkness into His light.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
Related Topics
Related Posts