Bo 5770

January 17, 2010

8 min read


Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )

GOOD MORNING! Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti. If you wish to help, there are many funds; I am giving through the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, where 100% of the funds will provide aid to the victims and their families. You may give online at: or send to: 4200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL. 33137.

I highly recommend the article "Israel and Haiti - Why Israel gives humanitarian aid whether or not it is appreciated or acknowledged" on I also recommend the article by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith, "Wrestling With Suffering" on - Below are a few ideas incorporated from his article, though only his article can put them in full context and develop them properly.

Tragedies, particularly of this magnitude, often lead people to ask - at least for a fleeting moment - "Where's God in all of this?" "How could God let such a tragedy occur?"

What is fascinating, is that we only ask these questions because we intuitively believe three axioms about the nature of God. God must be: (1) all good, (2) all knowing, and (3) all powerful. If you remove any one of these attributes, the question disappears.

If God isn't all good, He can do evil and even enjoy inflicting pain. Is there any wonder why bad things happen to good people?

If God isn't omniscient, bad things occur because He doesn't know everything that's going on in the world. If He knew about it; He would certainly put a stop to it.

If God isn't omnipotent, bad things happen because there are forces beyond God's control. Diseases and natural disasters are too mighty for God. We can only call God to task for events that are in His hands.

If one believes in an omnipotent Being who is all good and all knowing, then the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" poses a real challenge.

In truth, we should ask that question even regarding events of much smaller magnitude.

Just how much pain must occur to legitimately raise the question? The Talmud gives the example of a person who reaches into his pocket with the intention of getting a certain coin and instead pulls out a smaller coin. Forced to reach into his pocket a second time, he experiences minor discomfort. The Talmud declares that this added exertion is reason enough to necessitate asking, "Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this?" (Brachot 5a)

Any amount of pain or discomfort poses the same theological question, even the stubbing of a toe. Philosophically, the dull aches in life demand as much an explanation as the major crises. After all, if God is all good, all powerful and all knowing, why should my daughter get a paper cut? Furthermore, minor examples of discomfort are perhaps more conducive to delving into the issue of suffering, since they diffuse the emotional tension, making it easier to focus on acquiring intellectual clarity.

While the topic, is too complex to clarify in this limited space, wrestling with suffering requires viewing all events as meaningful. Events in our life are not mere coincidences, random accidents that have nothing to do with a purposeful Being. If God is all knowing, all powerful and all good, nothing just happens. I would like to direct you to read Rabbi Coopersmith's article and to leave you with a thought from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto:

"One who believes in God's oneness and understands its implications must believe that the Holy One, Blessed be He, is one, single, and unique, being subject to no impediment or restraint whatsoever, He alone dominating all ... there is no other beneath Him who exercises any dominion in the world ... He alone supervises all of His creatures individually, and nothing transpires in the world except through His will and agency - not through chance, and not through nature, and not through constellation; but He governs all of the earth and all that is in it, decreeing all that is to be done..." (Daas Tevunos).

Living with this attitude enables us to see God's guiding hand in our daily life. When we realize that events carry divine messages, we are compelled to open them up and explore their contents.

For more on "Suffering" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer: "With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (Tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt" (Ex. 13:15).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In this week's portion the Almighty gives the first commandment to the Jewish people as a whole - to decree the beginning of the Jewish month. This is important for setting the date of each Jewish holiday. It is so important that when the Romans were persecuting us at the time of the Hanukah story, they forbade the Jewish court to decree the beginning of the new month. The Torah states:

"This month shall be for you the first of the months (referring to the month of Nisson when Pesach occurs. The new year of the reign of king starts with the month of Nisson. The new year for the creation of mankind starts with the month of Tishrei)." (Exodus 12:2).

What lesson for life can we learn from this verse?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein commented that the month of Tishrei is the month of the creation of the world. The month of Nisson is the month of the exodus from Egypt. Both months are lessons in our awareness of the Almighty's power.

The first lesson is that the Almighty is the Creator of the universe. The second lesson is that of hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence. The Almighty controls the events of the world and therefore He is the One Who enslaved the Children of Israel and He is the One Who freed them. The Torah is telling us in this verse that the lesson of the Almighty's guiding historical events is even more important than the lesson of the creation of the world.

One can believe that the Almighty created the world and this might not make any difference in a person's behavior and attitudes. However, once a person is aware of the supervision of the Almighty in daily events, he will improve his behavior. Moreover, his trust in the Almighty will free him from worry. The month of Nisson is the first month of the year and by remembering this we remember all that is symbolized by the Exodus. This will have a major effect on what we do and think.


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Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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