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D’var Torah - Parashat Bo

From our Hebrew School Director Liora Ramati

Do you believe in miracles? Does the belief in miracles goes hand in hand with the belief in G-D?

Mia Schem spent 55 days in captivity as a hostage in Gaza after she attended the Nova festival on October 7 th . She was shot in her arm while trying to escape the terrorists and until that point, her experience was a story form hell as she was holding to her arm that got detached from her body as she was forcefully taken away to literally darkness. But in the dark rooms and tunnels where she was kept, she was still able to see the light. When she was finally released, she told a story of how she found a little candle and was able to light it up, she told herself that if the candle was lit for more than one hour it would be a sign from G-D that she would be released. And so it happened that the candle survived longer than an hour and Mia survived as well and was finally let go.

Even though she went through so much misfortune, being shot, almost losing her arm, going through an operation in Gaza, and surviving horrible conditions of not having enough food or water or having hardly any sleep… and still surviving, despite of it all, she was holding on to a candle burning for more than an hour as a sign from G-D, as a miracle, when this was the only thing that should happen naturally and should be taken for granted. 

She said she never lost hope and called to G-D every day for help. Her name and last name can be translated as Mi Hashem? Meaning: Who is G-D? who is The Name? This week’s Torah portion is called Bo and is mistakenly translated to the word Go in English, but it really means Come and that is not a mistake even though it does not really make sense in the context of the sentence.

How can G-d order Moses to come to Pharaoh? and not tell him to go to him? Is this a sign and another clue from G-D that He is everywhere? And a promise that wherever you may go, or are taken against your will, G-D will be there, so then G-D can, and should say: Come to and not Go to.

This is a deep teaching to come to G-D, He is with you, He is in you, and He will give you the strength you need to survive your hardships. In this Torah portion we read the last 3 plagues G-D sent on the Egyptians. Each one is stronger and described as above the laws of nature. One of them was the plague of darkness. 

During all the other plagues, the Egyptians could not do anything to end them, but now it seems like the easiest solution would be to just light a candle to which some interpret that it could not be the solution since the plague of darkness was not a physical one but a spiritual and even psychological one. The kind of darkness you experience during depression when our spiritual light is very dim. People suffering from depression lack the will to live. Perhaps the Egyptians were feeling depressed after going through the 8 previous plagues and having the realization that their livelihood depended on the suffering and enslavement of other people, and that is the meaning of living in true darkness. These last set of plagues were enough proof to the Egyptians of G-D’s power. It proved that G-D and only G-D controlled the world and the laws of nature.

There is a legend about the daughter of rabbi Hanina Ben Dosa who was a great Talmudic sage of the first-century and a miracle-worker. This legend teaches us one of the fundamental Jewish values of faith in G-D and how everything we experience during our everyday can be seen as miracles from G-D, even the things that we know are part of the laws of nature, just like a waxed candle burning, should not be looked as natural and obvious.

The legend takes place one Shabbat evening when Rabbi Hanina Ben Dosa saw his daughter sad and asked her why she was sad. She explained to her dad that she mistakenly used vinegar instead of oil when she lit the Shabbat lamps. Her dad asked her why did she mind what substance managed to lit them up? Who said it was obvious that the lamps would burn with oil and not with vinegar?

The Tana (The rabbinic authority in time of Mishnah) concluded that the light managed to survive the entire day and they were even able to bring the light of Havdalah from it. 

So, what is the miracle that happened to Rabbi Hanina Ben Dosa’s daughter? Was it the vinegar burning to light the Shabbat lamps or the fact that she got confused and used the vinegar instead of oil so she could have the teaching from her wise dad that we should not take anything for granted, not even the burning oil.

Both oil or vinegar burning should be considered a miracle!

If we see in everything a miracle from G-D, then we see it as the most natural thing and we will not be living our lives waiting for a miracle that will save us and affect our personal lives or the livelihood of our people in our country and in the world. This waiting period, for a big miracle, can sometimes weaken us and our spirits as opposed to seeing the miracle in every step we take and drawing strength from it. The power is within us and we need to come to it, find it and draw the strength we need to continue.

This legend teaches us that G-D is in every act and human experience. There are of course other opinions that do not agree with that notion and maybe, just maybe that is why G-D took us, all of us (the Egyptians and us) through the 10 plagues so we could understand who our G-D is, and His supernatural powers.

How did Mia survive with all the physical pain with her shot arm, after the house she was hiding in was bombed, after being 70 meters underground, with hardly no air or food to eat, with the emotional taunting, with not being able to even cry…this can only be achieved by a super powerful girl whose modern legend is being told after she saw the light in the darkness.

On Monday we observed Martin Luther King Day. His most famous speech started with the words: “I have a dream!” Yesh li Chalom! The root of the word dream is Chet Lamed Mem which are the same letters we use for the root of the word war.

I have a dream that one day there will be peace and no more war!

And let us say: Amen!

Beth Moshe Congregation is filled with generations of South Florida families with roots and traditional values. 

2225 NE 121 Street, North Miami, Florida 33181

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