Friday, February 3, 2012

BO: THE HEAVY HEART

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


The Talmud teaches us Rachmana Liba Baee, meaning "G*d wants our hearts." G*d wants us to have a heart connection with Him. And if we are to have a heart connection with G*d, how much more so are we to try to achieve such a connection with G*d's creatures, our fellow creatures! It's hard enough to love a stranger, but does that extend to our enemy as well?

In Leviticus 19:18 the Torah says that we should "love our neighbor as (we love) ourselves." The Hebrew reads ve'ahavta le're'acha kamocha. Reah, meaning "neighbor," has also the same spelling as ra'ah, meaning "bad" or "evil." So it could also be understood as teaching that we should try to love our bad or evil neighbor as ourself. This makes sense, because through the act of trying we could ignite a change and turn him around. We may fail in the end, but we need to try just the same. To give up trying is to abandon hope for a better world.

Many people react instinctively and mimic our actions or emotional states. Some people may respond to a loving gesture with love. The answer to darkness is light. The answer to hate is love. But hard core evil is oblivious to such gestures. Such evil is beyond the pale. But only through showing love can we learn to tell the difference between redeemable evil and unredeemable hard core evil, that we must then vainquish or be vainquished in turn.

In the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the usual translation tells us that Pharaoh's heart was "hardened." But those who know Hebrew know that root for the word "hard" is "KaSHeH," with the letters koof, shin and hey. But the Torah uses the root word KaVeD, with a koof, a vet and a dalid. This means heavy, not hard.

Parshat Bo Ex 10:1"...Bo el Paro ki ani hichbadti et libo...""...come to Pharaoh because I made his heart heavy..."

In a sense, G*d wants Moshe to come to Pharaoh to cheer him up, to bring him out of his melancholy and sadness. The Torah thus is teaching us that there is a special value in comforting the sad, even those who intend us harm. Perhaps the act of kindness will awaken them to do teshuvah and repent of their ways.

Can you imagine how unbelievably sad Pharaoh was to have been oppressing Israel? When you oppress others and cause them pain you are really projecting your own sense of unworthiness onto the other. That is the reason why Pharaoh's heart was heavy. It wasn't "hardened," as is often mistranslated. His heart was heavy. The pain you inflict on others ALWAYS come back to you, adding layer upon layer, weighing you down with unbearable heaviness. The more pain he inflicted on Israel, the more his own burden increased. This is a life lesson of universal truth for each of us to ponder.

The word BO reflects the intimacy of casual relations. Moshe could enter Pharaoh's presence at will. Why? Because Pharaoh drew deep pleasure from Moshe's presence. Anyone so connected to Hashem ultimately brings pleasure to the soul of even the wicked, so as to assuage the sense of utter abandonment from the Source of Life. No guards were necessary. Moshe could enter at will. Pharaoh saw to that!

So in a sense, the deepest sense, actually, Pharaoh enjoyed Moshe's presence in the same pathological sense that a naughty child enjoys negative attention. Negative attention is better than no attention at all! Moshe's pointed admonitions were actually gratifying to one who had always seen himself as the ultimate ruler, who now realizes that his evil is coming back to haunt him and that his evil may have placed him beyond the pale, placing him beyond Hashem's mercy. Even Hashem's harsh judgment on some level is better than being ignored!!!

So here the Torah is actually speaking on the deepest level about human relations. The soul craves a Divine connection. Preferably a connection of mercy. But lacking that, even harsh judgment will suffice. This is a parable for all of us, and for each of us. The eschatological end times of ultimate Messianic redemption will dawn among us either from a quality of delicious sweetness, or CV"S ("G*d forbid"), a quality of harsh judgment.

Maaseh Avot Siman LeBanim. The deeds our forefathers are signposts for their children (us). Those who oppress and show cruelty to others have, in a sense, chosen Pharaoh as their father. It is said that we choose our parents before birth. We are Rachmanin b'nai Rachmanim, merciful ones descended from merciful ones. May our actions reflect our parentage and bring down mercy from heaven in their holy merit.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!