Messages from Cantor Hanan Leberman

Parashat Bo – Approaching Our Fears
January 7th, 2022
5 Shevat 5782

Candle Lighting: 4:40 p.m.

When facing our fears we often feel alone, even when we are surrounded by family, friends and community. Fear can shut us down and force us not to move; we can become paralyzed by fear. I imagine this is how Moses felt when given the job of confronting Pharaoh in this week’s Torah portion.

Pharaoh was seen as a god by the Egyptians. He was possibly the most powerful man in the world during his time. Pharaoh was the king of the most technically advanced human civilization the world had ever seen. So how was Moses supposed to confront such an overwhelming character? The answer is in the name of the portion: “בֹּ֖א” (“Bo”), meaning, “to come or to approach.”

“…וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come to Pharaoh…”

Hashem could have commanded Moses to go–like he has commanded others many times before (“lech-lecha” is just one example that comes to mind)–but instead uses the word “בֹּ֖א”, which we can take to mean “come,” or even “join me.”

The vision I have of this interaction is that God puts an arm around Moses and says, “Don’t fear, we will go together.”

Chazal (our sages) teach us that the reason for God’s continuous hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was to show the entire world the miracles that God delivered to save Israel so that there would be no doubt that God is the almighty, and no doubt that Hashem is with Israel. So perhaps another understanding of the word “בֹּ֖א” is that it implies that the Lord was talking to Moses from Pharaoh, saying “Come to me, have no fear, I am everything, including Pharaoh.”

Another interpretation I heard this week is that we can understand the word “בֹּ֖א” as being Hashem’s voice coming from within Moses; an internal call saying, “Approach yourself, come into yourself and see how there is nothing to fear, for God is within you.” Pharaoh is not the cause of your fears; you can face down your fear by tackling the unease within yourself.

The future looks scary. We have once again entered into a New Year with a pandemic and a lot of unknowns. In America, Israel and all over the world, how do we go about facing this modern-day Pharaoh? Perhaps the answer is “Bo”: to focus not only on the external factors causing us fear and harm, but also to focus our intentions on our inner selves and find our partnership with God so that even when we are in solitude and uncertainty, we feel God’s embrace from within.


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