In Parshas Bo, after all the makkos, we finally reach the time when Bnei Yisrael actually leave Mitzrayim. The final three makkos are performed in this week’s parshah before Paroh lets Bnei Yisrael leave at the end. Another important event in this parshah is Hashem giving over the first mitzvah to the Bnei Yisrael as a nation, the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh, which, coincidently, also fell out this week. Together with the mitzvah of Korban Pesach, this parshah has great significance to us on many levels.
I’d like to focus on two pesukim in this week’s parshah. The first is when Moshe comes to talk to Paroh following Choshech, the Plague of Darkness. Paroh offers to allow all the people to go serve Hashem in the desert but they must leave their animals behind. Moshe refuses this offer and demands that Paroh allow the Jewish People to leave together with all their possessions. The response is as follows, “וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ פַרְעֹה לֵךְ מֵעָלָי הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ אֶל תֹּסֶף רְאוֹת פָּנַי כִּי בְּיוֹם רְאֹתְךָ פָנַי תָּמוּת. וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה כֵּן דִּבַּרְתָּ לֹא אֹסִף עוֹד רְאוֹת פָּנֶיךָ” “Paroh said to him (Moshe), ‘Go away from me! Beware! You shall no longer see my face, for on the day you see my face, you shall die!’. And Moshe said, ‘You have spoken correctly; I shall no longer see your face” (Shemos 10:28-29).
Before Moshe left Paroh’s presence, Hashem gave him the final message for Paroh, the warning for Makkas Bechoros, the Killing of the Firstborn. Moshe tells Paroh how all the firstborns in Egypt will die and how this will drive all of Mitzrayim to beg the Jews to leave. Then, before Paroh can even respond, the pasuk tells us, “וַיֵּצֵא מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה בָּחֳרִי אָף” “And he (Moshe) left Paroh with burning anger” (11:8). This reaction is very strange coming from Moshe. First of all, what exactly did Moshe get upset about? If it was because Paroh threw him out of the palace with orders to never return, we see later on in the Torah, Moshe was the most humble person who ever lived. That he should get angry at Paroh’s reaction does not fit in with this assessment. Furthermore, Rashi explains on Perek 10 Pasuk 29 that when Moshe said, “You have spoken well”, he was actually saying to Paroh that he was correct, this would be the last time Moshe would see Paroh in his palace! So there was no reason for Moshe to get angry that Paroh threw him out, he even agreed with Paroh’s decision!
Furthermore, the gemarah in Pesachim (66b) tells us that if a Navi gets angry, his prophetic ability leaves him. Moshe received prophecy from Hashem about Makkas Bechoros at the same time he was told to leave the palace. How could he have received this prophecy if he was angry at Paroh? The question becomes even stranger when we consider the medrash on Perek 11 Pasuk 8 that when Moshe left in anger, he hit Paroh before walking out of the palace!
Rav Shimon Schwab ZT”L in his sefer, Maayan Beis HaShoeva, writes that obviously Moshe did not get upset because of his own kavod. Rather, the Chilul Hashem that Paroh had been causing every time he refused to let Bnei Yisrael leave and instead took makkah after makkah had built up a frustration inside Moshe which he had not yet reacted to. Now that Moshe had fulfilled his job of appearing in front of Paroh (as he told Paroh in 10:29,) he could finally let out his frustration at this incredible lack of respect for Hashem and did so in very clear fashion by slapping Paroh before stomping out.
We see numerous times both in this and last week’s parshah the respect that both Moshe and Hashem afforded Paroh because of his position as king. (See Shemos 6:13, 10:1, and 11:8 for a few examples.) Until this point Moshe had been able to stomach Paroh’s chutzpah because of his continuing mission. However, now that the mission was over, Moshe showed Paroh exactly what he thought of his complete lack of recognition of the Ruler of the World, which went up to the point, according to the medrash, of publicly humiliating him.
While it is easy for us to picture frustration coming out in this form, it was still an amazing act on Moshe’s part. Paroh was the king of Mitzrayim! And with Moshe inside the palace walls, no doubt Paroh had plenty of soldiers and other men ready to kill him on command. With this, Moshe showed his true Yiras Shamayim, his fear of Heaven; he was so upset by this continuing Chilul Hashem that he did something which in a normal situation would have been suicidal.
While most of us will most likely not have an opportunity to demonstrate our Yiras Shamayim in front of a king, we must be ready to do so in whatever situation we might be prompted to show it. We will surely be tested at some point or another, and even if it is not as grand a stage as Moshe’s, if that is the platform that Hashem gives us then it might as well be the same.
May we see our Geulah soon.
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