And the Lord said to Moses: Come to Pharaoh…” Exodus 10:1
This week’s Torah ready, parshat Bo, takes its name from the word “Bo,” which means “come” in the opening verse.
It’s curious phrasing, and as non-standard in Hebrew as it is in English. Shouldn’t it say “Go to Pharaoh…” ? Why does God say “come to Pharaoh?”
As the students of the Kotzker rebbe answered when he asked them “where is God found?” “M’lo col ha’aretz k’vodo,” the whole world is full of His glory. God is everywhere. So God is also with Pharaoh already at the time that the he tells Moses to go to Pharaoh. In essence what God is saying is “come join me over here, with Pharaoh.”
God is giving encouragement to Moses. She’s telling Moses what I’m asking you do to do is scary. You’ve already been to Pharaoh seven times. Seven times Pharaoh has been subjected to plagues, and yet he still refuses to let the Jewish people go. Moses might understandably be reluctant. Pharaoh’s patience might be wearing thin. What if Pharaoh thinks “maybe I should just kill this troublemaker before he sends any more plagues on me?”
So God reassures him. Don’t worry Moses, I’m already there with Pharaoh. I’ll be with you during this time, and always. The verse continues, “for I have hardened his heart…” God is saying “I’m intentionally making Pharaoh stubborn, but don’t sweat it, it’s me, I’m here, everything will be OK.”
And so it is for all of us — for God by definition is the omnipresent, the One, the unity of the universe, the presence that is everywhere and everywhen. Our challenge is that we don’t always know it. Maybe that’s why God phrased his request to Moses in the unusual way that he did. To make sure Moses got the message that God is there too.
What about the rest of us? There are times when we may not feel God’s presence. When God seems to be missing. It’s not an issue with God, it’s an issue with us.
The Kotzker rebbe’s students thought they were being clever with their response, that “the whole world is full of God’s glory.” The Kotzker shook his head, and responded, “no, God is wherever we let Him in.”
Shabbat is about to start here in Jerusalem…the beauty of Shabbat is that all those rules create the space we need to feel God’s presence. They give us the leisure to “let God in.”