Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger
Get the Message
Parshas Bo, which details the culmination of all of the makos, to my mind, begins with one of the sure signs of an impending redemption, that Hashem opens up to us and clearly reveals to us His game plan through which He will complete our geulah. What we would give to have that kind of clarity in our own time! It is in these first pesukim that Hashem recounts to Moshe alone, that He has strengthened Paroh's resolve to endure more suffering, and that Hashem is doing this to create through Moshe an eternal story of Hashem's presence in dark times.
Apparently this revelation was for Moshe alone, for the subsequent warning that Moshe delivers to Paroh focuses entirely on the upcoming plague of locusts. Surprisingly, Moshe opens with a seemingly peculiar demand from Paroh, "How long will you continue to resist humbling yourself to me?" The Brisker Rav, noting that this is a change of the routine that had been repeated time again throughout the parshiyos, suggests that Hashem expresses here His concern and perhaps anger that He has been ignored by Paroh. In other words, in addition to the makos displaying certain philosophical truths, and punishing the Egyptians for enslaving us at the same time, the makos were also a punishment for ignoring the earlier Makos. Though this point is revealed now, its tone indicates that this was a theme all along.
The Brisker Rav compares this to the beginning of the Rambam's Hilchos Taanis. There the Rambam records that when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, facing war, famine or drought, the Torah commands us to respond by prayer and ultimately fasting. Should one ignore this opportunity, codifies the Rambam, that will in turn bring greater anger and punishment to our people. In a very strong sentence, which may be primarily addressed to our leadership, we read that ignoring the difficulties and chalking them up to chance is a cruel practice as it continues to wreak pain and suffering on our people.
Rambam continues to address our time, having found us at war recently. It is remarkable that he states that prayer when offered in response to tzoros, is simply our way of saying "Hashem, we hear you" and thus begins the introspection and teshuva which will ultimately lead to authentic and lasting resolutions to our difficulties. In light of Rambam's position that prayer is Biblically mandated on a daily basis, expressing the fullness of our relationship with Hashem, our praise, gratitude, and needs, the prayer of an eis tzoro is an entirely different form of prayer.
I believe this is a Rambam that must be studied and restudied in these weeks. Accordingly if we understand that our prayers were effective and heard on High, then it follows that not only did Hashem listen to our pleas and our tears, and not only accepted the increased goodness that we expressed over the past few weeks, but more important for us now, is that Hashem accepted our call saying "We got the message". Thus the importance of following through with improvements in our service to Hashem and His people cannot be over estimated.
How fitting it is for us that the very beginning of the parsha emphasizes the messages of the recent weeks. In addition to increased introspection, we should be absolutely attentive to the miracles that Hashem has performed for us. We should read of and retell the miracles that will be reported to us by those who fought for us on the front lines. Thankfully these too are messages sent our way, messages of Hashem's presence and watchful eye over us.
Perhaps in the merit of humbling ourselves in response to the tzoros, Hashem will choose to address us through the clarity of open miracles.