This week’s Torah portion is Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:6), which is Hebrew for “Come.” In this case, it refers to God telling Moses and Aaron to come to Pharaoh and urge him to set the Israelites free.
Why didn’t Pharaoh just “bump off” Moses?
Think about it! Each and every time that Moses showed up at the palace, Pharaoh knew he was in for trouble. He knew that he was going to have a bad day. Blood, frogs, lice – it just kept coming. Every time that Moses showed up, so did trouble.
Can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of everyone who worked at the PMO (Pharaoh’s Miserable Office) each time they saw Moses? They must have hated Moses, to say the least!
So again, why didn’t Pharaoh simply kill Moses? Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the world. Furthermore, it was only a Jew that would be killed, and as we know, most of the world really does not care when Jews are killed. So, too, Pharaoh did not have to worry about CNN, BBC or world opinion. There were no “human rights” groups that would have challenged Pharaoh for killing Moses. In fact, nobody at all may have ever known that Moses was “knocked off” at all.
Can you imagine what would happen nowadays if a Jew showed up to some kind of modern-day tyrant, telling him what to do with his slaves, and then “magically” sending him a punishment to boot! Such a person would have been killed on the spot.
Pharaoh the Intellectual
So why did Pharaoh, the ancient world’s number one tyrant and terrorist, put up with Moses?
The answer is that although Pharaoh was evil, he was also real. He was a thinker. He believed in his message, he believed in his leadership, and he believed in his religion. Moses was not merely a nuisance to Pharaoh and Egypt, but Moses was seen as an opportunity.
Pharaoh wanted to prove that Moses was merely a magician, and that there was no God, no Chosen People and nothing to worry about. Pharaoh would not have been able to accomplish this goal if he merely killed Moses. Pharaoh wanted to win the old-fashioned way, through debate, deliberation, and developments. Pharaoh and Moses were continually engaged in a theological dispute, which Pharaoh appreciated.
That’s why Pharaoh kept Moses alive. Pharaoh was convinced that he would win this theological dispute. Pharaoh was certain that he could prove that Egypt’s gods were superior to the God of Israel and that Moses was a false prophet.
Pharaoh: A Seeker of Truth
This tells us something important about Pharaoh and something that we can learn from him as well. Pharaoh was not interested in discussing the latest trends, Facebook, cars, cell phones – you name it! Pharaoh focused on the important issues. Although he was completely off his rocker, Pharaoh focused on spirituality, God and seeking the truth.
Unfortunately, we often find ourselves talking about Facebook, the latest phones, the latest gadgets and other frivolities. Who starts up a conversion about God these days? God seems to be taken out of the lexicon.
So there you have it! There is something to learn even from Pharaoh – to focus on what’s important in life, always seek the truth and engage others in dignified topics of conversation.
For other insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: