Parashat Bo – Inside Pharaoh

God deals with the Dragon


“And God said to Moses: “Enter to Pharaoh(Ex 10:1)


The expression used in this sentence is very interesting. It says: ‘Bo el Paroh’; ‘Enter into Pharaoh’; the same verb used when God told Noah: “Bo el haTeva”; ‘Enter into the Ark’ (Gn 7:1).

The Zohar in this portion (Zohar Bo) asks: Why is it written, “Enter to Pharaoh”  Instead of “Go to Pharaoh”? The answer they develop is that God didn’t ask Moses to go near Pharaoh like the other times, but to immerse into his psyche (because there are no permanent changes if we only deal with things externally, we need to deal with the core of the problem). So the Zohar explains that God brought Moses into [Pharaoh’s] innermost chamber, into the abode of the supernal mighty dragon [תנינא] that is the soul of Egypt (cf. Ez 29:3), from whom many lesser levels of dragons [תנינים] emanate (cf. Ex 7:12).


It was time to deal the matter from within. And it’s explained as a personal battle between God and the dragon who is the soul of Egypt and the source of Pharaoh’s power (cf. Zohar Vaera).


“For I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants” (Ex 10:1)


The Zohar and the Hassidim teach that Moses was distressed to see the forces of evil capable of such resolution and determination, after facing 7 plagues. So God said to him: they, on their own, do not possess such power. It is only because I have hardened their hearts.

There’s no other Power besides God. The forces of Evil do not have power by themselves. It is because God allows so and commands. It was God Himself who initiated the conversation with the Satan in order that he would go against Yov, as stated in the two questions: “Where come you from?” (Yov 1:7) and “Have you considered my servant Yov?” (Yov 1:8).  And it was God Himself who set the limits of the Satan’s power in both occasions, as stated: “Everything he has is in your hand but do not touch him” (Yov 1:12). And later: “He’s in your hand, but spare his life” (Yov 2:6).

Yov didn’t attribute his suffering to a different power. It was God who gave, it was also God who took away (Yov 1:21). So Moses later stated: “He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath, there’s no one else” (Dt 4:39), “There’s no one else besides him” (Dt 4:35; cf. Shamati 6Feb 1944). And as Yov stated: “the deceived and the deceiver are his” (Yov 12:16).

If you think that Adam’s sin was because God didn’t expect Satan to temp Eve and didn’t expect Eve to fall, you are wrong. Because that would be a lack of Perfection in God, which is cannot be. If there are forces in the world with the purpose to shake and test our faith in God is because God wills it so, and there’s a reason and purpose for it.

God told Moses specifically that these last three plagues will serve as a reminder for future generations of the exodus account (Ex 10:2).

God could have made Pharaoh let his people go without executing any plague at all, but that was not God’s will. It was necessary to execute exactly 10 plagues and make both Israel and Pharaoh know that there’s only one God, whose Power is above the power of any other pagan deity. Besides, with this, Moses and the people of Israel developed a necessity and a complete desire for God to help them. The same goes for us. Troubles and an unusual lack of Light in our lives should be perceived as coming from the hand of God, as stated: “I make peace, I create evil” (Is 45:7), and should be seen as an opportunity to cling more to the Creator.

And these are precisely the next two plagues: Troubles and Lack of Light.

The Last three plagues correspond to the 3 Intellectual Sefirot – Binah (Understanding),Hokhmah (Wisdom) and Daat (Knowledge).

Plague of Locusts


The plague of Locusts corresponds to the Sefirah of Binah – understanding.

This plague belongs to Binah, as can be seen for the fact that the Gematria for ‘Locust’ is 208, the same as ‘Yitzhak’ (the patriarch who is the Left column in the Sefirotic tree – for Binah is on the left).

ארבה = יצחק = 208

It says there were so many locusts that “the land was darkened” (Ex 10:15). Darkness in the Intellectual Sefirot means something more than mere physical darkness. This is something that belongs also to the next plague, and the reason the two plagues share this attribute is because the Sefirot of Binah and Hokhmah are an inseparable couple, as it’s written: “In Wisdom and in Understanding” (Ex 31:3) and also: “Because God deprived her of Wisdom, neither has imparted her Understanding” (Yov 39:17) and many other verses (cf. Ps 49:4 [3]; Prov 7:4, 8:1, 10:13, 24:3; Dn 1:20). The perfect balance of these two Sefirot gives us precisely the third, Daat – Knowledge – this is the secret in the verse: ‘Who is this that darkens the counsel with words without knowledge?” (Yov 38:2).


What is the attribute of the Locusts? First, its Hebrew name is ‘Arbeh’ (ארבה), it comes from a root that means: “Many” (רבה), because they always come in enormous countless groups, and as a verb it actually means: “I will increase” (cf. Gn 22:17 & 3:16). What they do is to consume the field and leave the land without food. This is given as a retribution for robbery/egoism (cf. Shabbat 32b). The Locusts in the book of Yoel represent a power from the Sitra Achra (the evil side) bringing Judgment – the main context of the book is “the Day of the Lord” (cf. Yoel 1:2-3, 6; 2:1). The locust consuming all the existing plants and fruits in the land represents the forces of the dark side destroying all the ethical morals and values remaining in the intellect of those who do not fear God, creating a society darkened in their own egoism. This will be healed in the messianic era, as stated:


“I will restore you the days the locusts have eaten… and you will know that I am in the midst of Israel… and there’s no one else… and afterwards I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Yoel 2:25-28).

The plague covered the face of the whole earth (Ex 10:15). However, in the double meaning of the word, while the wicked is Judged and devastated by this ‘Arbeh’ – locust, as stated: “Arbeh Itzboneikh” – ‘I will increase your grief’ (Gn 3:16), for those who repent and follow the Lord it can be a Blessing, as stated: ‘’Arbeh et Zar’akha” – ‘I will increase your seed’ (Gn 22:17).


Plague of Darkness


It follows the plague of Darkness, which represents a total lack of illumination, which has to do with the “Light” of Hokhmah – Wisdom, as stated: “I saw that Wisdom is better than folly, just as Light is better than Darkness … the fool walks in the darkness” (Eccl 2:13-14).

They did not rise from their place” (Ex 10:23).

‘Their place’ is a metaphor for their contentment with the dark, their inability to appreciate God’s Light.


So it is stated that while all Egypt were in Darkness even on day-time, the children of Israel had Light where they stayed.  Because there’s Light for the Jew where he is, even though he exists in a place of spiritual darkness, because they are to be a Light to the nations (cf. Is 42:6) for the world live in thick darkness. This is the Messianic light of Redemption as stated: “I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the day of clouds and thick darkness” (Ez 34:12) and also “darkness will cover the earth… and nations will walk at your light” (Is 60:2-3) (cf. Likutei Sichot 31 pp.46-52).


The sages taught that Israel’s entry to the Holy Land is linked to the exodus, because just as at Israel’s entry to Canaan there were only two out of 600,000 who made it – ie. Yehoshua and Kalev (Nm 32:12) – for every two people who came out of Egypt, there were 600,000 who had perished in there.  Then Rabba adds: It shall be even so in the days of the Messiah, for it is said ‘And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the days when she came up out of the land of Egypt (Hos 2:17 [15])’ (Sanhedrin 111a).


The Firstborn


The end is rooted in the beginning. This last plague was the first and only one to be foretold to Moses when he was yet at the burning bush, as it’s written:


“You will tell Pharaoh… Israel is my son, my firstborn. And I say to you, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your son, your firstborn. (Ex 4:22-23)”

Every Judgment of God is Measure for Measure (midah kNeged Midah). Pharaoh was harming the firstborn of God, so God harmed the firstborn of Pharaoh. God foretold the end at the beginning. Already with Abraham He had already stated: ‘And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge’ (Gn 15:14). “What was the judgment? The slaying of the firstborn, which was called a plague, as it says: ‘Yet one plague more’ (Ex 11:1)” (cf. Shemot Rabbah 15:27). This was the essential and central plague by which God wanted to punish Egypt. This was the intended plague since the first moment, so it corresponds to Keter – the Crown (the highest Sefirah), because the Sefirah of Keter corresponds to God’s primary Will.


The firstborn sons are called “all that open the womb” (Nm 8:16). In Kabbalah, the Sefirah of Keter is the “opening of the womb of God” in the Sefirotic tree. Also the word: Bekhorot (ie. firstborns) can be permuted as ‘ubaKitro’ (in His Crown).


בכורות – ובכתרו – כתר


This last plague would kill more people than what one would think at first sight. Consider the firstborn of each animal, even the female firstborn daughters (cf. pesikta Rabbati), Consider the many Egyptian children who were firstborn sons without knowing it because the hidden relations and infidelities of their parents (cf. Mekhilta Bo). Imagine the many Egyptian families who could have died in a desperate insurrection against Pharaoh, when they realized their children were going to die and Pharaoh still didn’t let Israel go (cf. Midrash Tehilim 136:6). The Torah says ‘There was not a house where there was not one dead’ (Ex 12:30). And what happened with the homes where there was no firstborn? Then the leader of the home died, because it’s written: He smote all the firstborn of Egypt, the chief of all their substance (Ps 105:36). As in the verse: “Although he was not firstborn, his father made him chief” (1Chr 26:10).


Israel is my firstborn son” (Ex 4).


How is Israel the firstborn of God? Before Yakov was born there were many other people on earth, even before Abraham. And even then, Israel was not the firstborn; he purchased the birthright to Esav; but he had the will to serve God (Bamidbar Rabbah 4:8), so He made him his firstborn, meaning, even before creation, Israel existed in God’s mind. Because it’s written: “beReshit Bara Elohim” (‘in the beginning (Reshit) God created’; Gn 1:1). And then it’s written:

“Israel is set apart for the Lord, Beginning (Reshit) of his harvest” (Jer 2:3).


This means that being a child of God transcends lineage and blood. Even the Priestly service, once belonged to the firstborn of the family, but when Israel sinned with the golden calf, God chose the tribe who totally repented; ie. Levi as priests instead of the firstborns (cf. Bamidbar Rabbah 4:8). Ultimately will be Messiah himself who will lead the world to be in the image of God, so that they will reach the level of son. As it’s taught: “Serving God from fear is the level of a servant; but serving Him from Love is the level of a Son” (cf. Kedushat Levi, Yitro p. 36).

About this there’s a Midrash that says:


“Rabbi Nathan said: “The Blessed Holy One told Moses: ‘Just as I have made Yakov firstborn, for it says: Israel is my firstborn son, so will I make the King Messiah firstborn, as it says: I also will appoint him firstborn (Psal 89:28)” (Shemot Rabbah 19:7).



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