8 Shevat 5777 – Bo

Fear is perhaps our greatest enemy. It prevents us from achieving desired goals in life and often deceives us into thinking that we are not good enough. Its power lies in the fact that it is invisible. How many of us can know the source of our fears and learn to overcome them? Those people who can, are fortunate and they often emerge stronger and wiser from the experience. Yet how many of us are restrained in some way because of our fears? 

Now in some situations fear can be good. It may prevent us from causing harm to ourselves and from making bad decisions. I know personally, whenever I get up to speak, perform in public or compete in a race, there is a small amount of fear that pushes adrenalin throughout my body. This is vital enhancing my performance. But what about that debilitating sort of fear that holds sway over us and leaves us feeling angry, depressed, debilitated or disabled? And what about the cumulative effect that fear may fear have on our society as a whole?

I am not a psychologist and don’t profess to be one, but I wish to address a possible way of redeeming ourselves from the limiting nature of fear. 

This week’s Torah portion, parshat Bo, recounts the details pertaining to the final three of the ten plagues. It starts with the following words: “And G-d said to Moses: Come to Pharaoh (Bo el Paroh)…”. 

The mystical book of the Zohar asks the question: Why does it say, “Come to Pharaoh”? It should have said, “Go to Pharaoh”?? 

The Zohar explains that G-d gave Moses this command as a way of coaxing him to go back to Pharaoh to implement the eighth plague. The reason he had to be encouraged was because he was overcome with fear. He was suddenly able to perceive the true spiritual nature of Pharaoh, or as the Zohar puts it, Moses perceived the “supernal and mighty serpent” from which Pharaoh evolved. 

Now, Moses had already visited Pharaoh many times before this commandment, “Come to Pharaoh.” What suddenly frightened Moses this time around? And how did G-d’s response “Come to Pharaoh” assuage his fear?

You see, up till this point, Moses dealt with Pharaoh in his various manifestations but not his essence. Now he is told to enter into the core essence of Pharaoh’s evil and this terrified Moses. To which G-d responds: “Come to Pharaoh,” Come with me. G-d is saying that you don’t go alone. I come with you and help you eradicate the evil at its source.

And here we see the true nature of fear.

Fear’s true power is in the loneliness that it imposes upon us. When we feel that we are alone in our predicament. When we feel that no one can understand our pain and suffering. And even if someone can empathise, we still feel that they are not really with us and therefore ultimately we remain isolated.

Friends, life is full of uncertainty. A natural outcome of witnessing or experiencing pain or setback can be the developing of various fears or phobias. Yet this week’s Parashah teach us a powerful lesson – “Come with Me.” No matter how lonely we may feel, especially in our loss and pain, we are not alone. We are never alone. 

Which begs the question: Are we as individuals and as a community doing enough to ensure that no one in our midst feels isolated or alone??
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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