Parashah of the week: Bo

“And Pharaoh’s officials said to him, ‘How long shall this fellow be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?’” Exodus 10:7


The boy whose barmitzvah it was in my synagogue last week asked me why is there so much violence when the Israelites leave Egypt. Could it not be a little more contained, less collectively punishing? I did not have an answer.

On the train home I was mindlessly scrolling, when more and more royal news took over my feed. So I took it as a sign and asked, what do Prince Harry and Moses have in common? In this week in which the prince of Egypt finds his freedom and unleashes violence of biblical scale — blood and fire and pillars of smoke — I asked myself, are they very different?

The spares in the courts they grew up in, they rise up and speak to power and leave the life they could have had, burning every bridge behind them. The comparison was tempting. But then again, it was not.

Moses chooses to tie his fate with a nation of slaves, with his brother and his sister who did not grow up in court. His breaking free was taking even more responsibility, not less, sharing more in power, acting for others and accepting a higher power than his own: God’s.

So why did I feel they are still somehow the same? Because the way the West constructs the stories of its heroes hasn’t changed much since Creation. Look up “the hero pattern” and find out. It’s always the abandoned boy who grows up away from the “real” parent/s, only to come back and claim the kingdom, rise up to the powers that obstructed his path, win the kingdom.

There might be a slaying of a father and a wedding to a mother involved. Sounds familiar? I leave you to fill in the details of the analogy. The barmitzvah boy (well done Rafi!) made me think of what the pattern leaves behind and does not mention, mainly an unbelievable amount of pain.

The pain of people who got caught up in a drama that was not their own, both Israelites and Egyptians, the pain of being played by fortune by our tragic heroes, the horrible price everybody pays when people don’t listen to each other, don’t acknowledge each other’s pain.

He reminded me that when we think of stories as if there are no real lives involved in them, when we treat our Bible and our news as if they are fairytales, we forget not only that the people in them are human, but that so are we.

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