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Parshat Bo Shemot (Exodus) 10:1 - 13:16

Hardening the Hardened

”Then Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them, and that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and your son’s sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them — in order that you may know that I am Adonai.’” Exodus 10:1-2

Up until this moment it was Pharaoh himself that had arrogantly and persistently hardened his own resolve to not let the Israelites go. It was his own pride that was the driving force behind his belligerent attitude against HaShem, Moshe and the Israelite peoples.

However, now, for these final three remaining signs and marvels it will be Adonai Himself that grips the resolve of Pharaoh hardening it even more. It is Adonai that raises up and brings down kings and kingdoms. There comes a time in everyone’s life, be they king or commoner, that they come to that final crossroad at which, once the decision is made, to go with HaShem or continue to reject Him — there is no turning back once one’s resolve becomes tightly fixed by the grip of HaShem. Pharaoh had reached that point in his life which would forever affect him and his entire kingdom.

”Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that change darkness into light, and light into darkness; that change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter! Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:20-21

“If one wishes to contaminate himself, the way is open for him.” Ibn Ezra

Parshat Bo sets up several of the foundational stones of Judaism — the way of Adonai for His people:

[1] The basis of the Jewish Calendar by setting apart the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh) with the month of Nissan (aka Abib) as the beginning of months. (12:2)

[2] The celebration of Passover (Pesach) and Unleavened Bread and the basic rules governing its observance. (12:3-11)

[3] The setting apart (sanctification) of the first born wholly unto Adonai — starting the concept of the Redemptive process that will be further developed over the next forty years. (13:1)

[4] And finally, the commandment of putting on of Tefillin. (13:16)

The importance of the impact of the final three signs from HaShem cannot be stressed enough — not only on the Egyptians, but especially upon the Israelite peoples. Over the last two hundred and ten plus years of slavery many had forgotten their heritage, their ancestral promise from Adonai, even some no longer being circumcised; having forgotten of its supreme importance in their identification as a special set-apart peoples for the King of the Universe. About the only thing most had in common with one another was the fact of their slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. They had lost sight of their unique place and the part they were to play in HaShem’s affairs in this world.

These signs and marvels brought two kinds of fears upon both peoples. While the fear experienced by the Egyptians was that of dread and darkness; what the Israelites experienced as fear was longing for the G-d of their fathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’akov being renewed afresh. They, for the first time ever were witnessing with their own eyes and lives the love and delivering power of the Almighty; the power of the Creator of the universe being bestowed on their behalf and all because this Almighty One loved them and was fulfilling the promise He had made centuries earlier to their ancestors. They don’t know it yet, but this Powerful One was about to do something for them so unimaginable in its scope and will free them from the clutches of this Pharaoh and his kingdom of taskmasters once and for all.

In next week’s parsha they and we will see the extent to which HaShem is willing to go to deliver the pupil of His Eye — Israel.

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