Why we had to leave pharaoh

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

D’VAR TORAH — On Parashat Bo

Why not make the best of it? Why not take a nice place in the country when it gets too hot in the city, a nice chariot might carry us away when we need to get away. That could work. 

Why not open a little business in the market, stash some cash, get away a couple of times a year, buy some nice sandals, take a hike to the pyramids when the weather’s right. What the heck, why not stay?

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Why not enjoy the good fortune. Some of us have done very well here. 

On the other hand, locusts. Locusts – brought in by an east wind (Exodus 10:13), carried away by a west wind (10:19); locusts, east wind, west wind, metaphors.

Open up your right hand to the east wind, it’s your right side, the silent heart of wisdom, unreflective, before language, chokhmah, aha wisdom. Aha – before there was language for what we know. When the thought drops, so to speak. Chokhmah.

Open your left hand to the west wind, left side, self-conscious spirit of inquiry, conceptualization, language, binah, understanding. To take what we know and give it language. To take that “aha” and put words on it.

West wind: conscious, linear, practical, rational.

East wind: intuitive, lateral, mystical.

Chokhmah and binah, right side and left side, when they are balanced, they are right. Can a person be out of balance? You bet.

Can a community be out of balance? Oh, yeah. Can a culture? 

Both winds blow through our camp. Can a community restore its balance? Yes. Can a person? With the right help.

Try this meditation in movement: Take your hand and run it up and down your heart line, between the right and left sides, western branches, eastern roots, tree of life, balance. Do it until you feel the balance. So what gets in our way?

Pharaoh, I mean the enduring pharaoh, the one we haven’t left behind, the one we meet every morning when we look in the mirror, the one we read about in the newspaper. 

The one we bring up every Passover when it’s time to get free, that’s that pharaoh. There is also this pharaoh: Par’oh,  the dis-integrator, the separator; par’oh, from a root meaning to split to rend, par’oh to separate.

And that’s why we had to leave pharaoh, to become one people, to become one in community, to become one with ourselves.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman serves Central Reform Congregation and is a past president of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association.