Parashat Bo

Keeping Faith

Just as the Israelites maintained their faith through nine plagues, none of which succeeded in convincing Pharaoh to free them, we too should develop our ability to have faith in times of darkness.

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When Moses says, "We shall not know with what we are to worship Adonai until we arrive there," what does he teach us about prayer?

By the Way…

Since [the Egyptians] did not submit, God put them in prison-darkness. (Tanchuma, Bo 4)

Why did the Holy One bring darkness upon the Egyptians? Because there were transgressors within the House of Israel who had patrons among the Egyptians, lived in their midst in affluence and honor, and were therefore unwilling to leave Egypt. The Holy One said: "If in the sight of all I bring a plague upon them also and they die, the Egyptians will say, 'Just as plagues have befallen us, so has a plague befallen them.'" For this reason, God brought darkness upon the Egyptians for three days so that the Israelites could bury their [disloyal] dead without their enemies seeing what they were doing. (Exodus Rabbah 14:3, M'chilta B'shalach)

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of Adonai is risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the peoples. But upon you Adonai will arise, and God's glory shall be seen upon you." (Isaiah 60:1-2)

It says, "Hope in Adonai, yea, hope in Adonai" (Psalms 27:14): One hope after the other. "Be of good courage and let your heart be strong" (ibid): If you have hoped and have not been saved, hope and hope again. (Midrash Rabbah, Psalms 129a)

"And they had faith in Adonai…" Great is faith, for as a reward that the Israelites had faith in God, the spirit of holiness rested upon them and they sang the Song [of the Sea]… The Israelites were delivered from Egypt only as a reward of faith… The reward for the faith that our ancestors had in God in this world, which is all night, is that we are counted worthy for the world-to-come, which is all morning. (M'chilta B'shalach 6-7)

Your Guide

"In every generation, each one of us must feel that we personally left Egypt." (Passover Haggadah) If we want to understand what it was like to leave Egypt, then we have to understand the story unfolding before our eyes not merely in retrospect. What was it like for our ancestors to witness plague after plague--nine plagues, to be exact--and to see that none of them worked? Have you ever experienced such disappointments time and time again?

"They had faith in Adonai and in God's servant Moses." (Exodus 14:31) Remember, Moses did not "brief" the Israelites on the day's accomplishments or how Pharaoh was gradually cracking and offering more and more to Moses with each successive plague. All they saw was that they were still slaves in spite of their prayers and God's miracles. So where did they get the faith to continue to believe? Where do you get the faith to continue to believe?

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Rabbi Donald A. Weber

Rabbi Donald A. Weber is the spiritual leader of Temple Rodeph Torah of Western Monmouth, Marlboro, NJ.