Coming To Judaism

January 18, 2013
BY Rena Rotenberg

In this week’s parasha, Bo, Moshe is instructed to approach Pharoah.

The word, “Bo” is in the imperative form, denoting that a male is asked to come to a particular place or person. One can wonder why the word “Bo,” meaning come, is used at the beginning. It seems that a better word would have been “lech,” meaning to go to a certain place.

Moshe was instructed to “come” to Pharoah with a message from God. He was to tell Pharoah about the plague that would befall all the Egyptians if he refused to let the Jewish people leave Egypt.

Moshe comes to Pharaoh with his life experiences, the nurturing of his real mother — the songs, attitudes, values and feelings for his people that were instilled in him during those very early years. (Bible scholars believe that a baby/young child was nursed for at least three years in those times.) Moshe was entrusted to a wet nurse — his own mother — after Pharoah’s daughter pulled him from the Nile. These early years were formative ones for acquiring some basic values and knowledge of his people.

Moshe comes to Pharaoh with awareness of the cruelty and suffering of his people under the bondage of Egyptian rule and of his own experience of killing an Egyptian overseer, who was beating a Hebrew slave.  He comes to Pharoah with the support of God, with the knowledge that God had decreed that the Israelites should leave Egypt, and that until that time, all Egyptians would suffer.

We all “come” to an event, meeting, encounter or relationship, whether it be it new or ongoing, with prior experiences, perhaps with some knowledge, feeling and understanding.

It behooves us as Jews to bring to every situation knowledge and understanding of all aspects of “Jewishness” and Judaism. We ourselves must be knowledgeable about our religion.

As a Jewish educator, I interpret the word “Bo” to mean, not just to “come,” but to “come with” something, as did Moshe. He came with the love of Judaism, the desire to share that knowledge and passion with others of all ages and to show that Judaism impacts every aspect of life, of caring for others and of educating our children.

It will be my pleasure to share at Limmud Baltimore on April 21. I will teach about my late husband’s childhood in Tientsin, China (1939-1948) and the lifestyle, education and religious community that affected this  boy and his family. I hope you will join me.

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