By Rus Devorah Wallen
I’m Rus Devorah Wallen, and I’d like to share my T for 2, my Torah thought for two minutes, more or less.
This week’s Torah portion is parshas Bo. It begins with God telling Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites leave Egypt to serve God. As we have said in a prior T for 2, Bo does not mean “go” to Paroh, it means come. Some of the commentators explain this means that God is coming with Moshe to Paroh, giving him strength, and connecting with him to make sure that he has all of the resources and strength he needs to complete this very challenging mission.
Similarly, when a student comes to a teacher, a client comes to a therapist, a disciple or Chossid comes to the Rebbe, the leader must be able to empathize and tune in to their difficulties and enter with them inside their challenges. This coming week will be Yud Shevat, the 10th of Shevat when the Lubavitcher Rebbe assumed leadership of the Lubavitch movement a year after the passing of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe.
One of the closest and most intimate experiences a chossid can have with his or her Rebbe, is through the experience of Yechidus, which is roughly translated as a personal and private audience. Yechidus literally means being at one, united with the Rebbe. It is a time when the Chossid comes to gain strength and encouragement from the Rebbe. He may come possibly for a blessing or practical or spiritual guidance. After the audience, the Chossid feels understood, renewed, re-energized, and reinspired.
There’s a famous story of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel the Maharash. One of his assistants inquired of the Rebbe why he perspired so intensely during Yechidus. The assistant was concerned since he would have to help him continuously change his clothes. The Rebbe would become drenched in sweat between meetings. So, the helper asked for an explanation. The Maharash answered, “When a Chossid comes to me for yechidus, I have to take off my proverbial garments, my personality and consciousness, and put on the disciple’s garments in order to fully understand his state of mind and his issues. Then, in order to advise him and guide him, I need to take off his garments and put my own back on. Imagine if you had to dress and undress and re-dress yourself dozens of times an hour, wouldn’t you be drenched in sweat too?”
The idea of “Bo el Paroh – Come to Paroh” expresses this idea that God is accompanying Moshe and allaying his fears of addressing the stubborn and recalcitrant despot Paroh. This leader was so formidable, that Moses wondered whether or not he would be able to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task. Hashem tells Moshe in this word, Bo, that He is coming along with him in this trial. Since avoiding the inner pain just makes suffering more challenging, we are asked to come into the challenge. There is a therapeutic quip that states, “the only way to it is through it.” In other words, the Divine is found in the suffering itself, not in trying to avoid it.
One of the lessons from parshas Bo is that whatever predicament we are in, God is with us, accompanying us and giving us strength. And, if others need our assistance, we need to try to empathize with their situation, investing ourselves into their needs and truly enter their world to assist them. May God give us the strength to be able to be sensitive to the needs of our fellows and may we have the confidence that God is with us amidst our challenges.
Rus Devorah Wallen is an accomplished musician, performer, social worker, psychotherapist, and educator.