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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bo

BALANCING THE BOOKS

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So much can be learned in the Torah from the tiniest little word! For a 3rd time, Moshe is told by Hashem, "BO el Paro – COME to Paro." Would it not have been more appropriate to use the word, "LECH – GO" to Paro?

But the word "Bo" is a gentler, softer, more respectful term; Hashem is telling Moshe he must approach Paro with respect even when coming to make demands of him. But why? Paro is a villain extraordinaire, responsible for putting our people through terrible ordeals of slavery, degradation & death. Why show him any honor at all?

One response is that Paro was a king, & kings are to be treated with respect. Another thought is that Moshe grew up in the palace, & so Paro was a semi-father to him, & fathers need to be spoken to with humility & deference.

But there is another, deeper dynamic at work here. Paro, for all his villainy, performed certain acts of goodness & kindness. For one thing, he (or his namesakes) gave Bnei Yisrael a home & shelter in Goshen for many years. Paro also once exhibited a surprising sense of Chesed. The Medrash says that he & Yitro, Paro’s advisor, were walking one day in Egypt’s slave market, & saw two young girls. They took pity on them, & decided to adopt them so as to save them from a life of misery. Who were these girls? None other than Batya & Zipora, who played major roles in Moshe’s life! Perhaps it was even Paro’s act of saving Batya that instilled in her the very instinct to save Moshe!

The lesson here is that Hashem is a meticulous CPA (Cosmic, Punctilious Accountant). He keeps careful track of everything his subjects do; for each & every positive act, we will be rewarded; conversely, every negative act we do will have its own consequences. And so a Tzadik will pay for his sins, regardless of his other acts of merit, & a Rasha will be blessed for his good deeds.

Think of it this way: Mitzvot are vitamins & medicine, & Aveirot-sins are poison. If you place medicine in a sick body, there will be some benefit to that person, maybe even a complete healing. But if you inject poison into even a super-healthy body, the results will certainly be harmful, maybe even deadly. That’s just reality.

Is there any person in this world who is completely & totally without sin, or who is 100% sinful? Certainly not! Perhaps this is why we should not be completely perplexed when we see "good" people suffer, or "evil" people prosper. What we are actually witnessing is the ultimate, eternal CPA balancing His books.

Now, if someone like Paro could be rewarded for acting nobly now & then, imagine what we could earn through a life of Yirat Shamayim & Torah observance. Let’s do our best to see that we are always on the right side of the ledger!
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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