Parashat Bo - Exodus 10:1-13:16

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 10:1–2)

With the opening words of our parashah we hear the very heart of God. The entire reason for the battle with Pharaoh is because He wants to create a legacy, a memorial, and a devotion to Himself that will be passed on from generation to generation among the Children of Israel. He says it is so that “you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson.” His desire is that the children of Israel would attach themselves to Him forever, and that there would not be a generation in which He is forgotten. It is therefore the responsibility of parents to teach their children the ways of the Lord, and recount everything He has done in our lives so that they can see His love, His faithfulness, and His greatness.

When Pharaoh momentarily relents after the plague of locusts, he asks Moses who he intends on taking out to the wilderness. Moses replies, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters” (Exodus 10:9). Pharaoh snapped back his harsh response: “The LORD [will indeed] be with you if ever I let you and your little ones go!” (vs. 10). The world does not want us to teach our children to serve the Lord. Secular society would like nothing better than for our children to forsake their spiritual heritage. As noted in his biography of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the "Rebbe” of blessed memory, and the seventh leader of Chabad), Joseph Telushkin shows that the Rebbe understood this probably more than anyone.

In a private meeting with a philosophy major the Rebbe spoke critically of Platonic philosophy on a subject that has rarely been addressed. According to Plato, the family unit is a primary problem of society. Plato believed that children should be stripped from their families and raised by the state without any knowledge of their parents. This would allow them to be “programmed” properly by the state to be dutiful citizens who were loyal to the state above their families. The Rebbe considered this philosophy to be “cruel,” and rightly so. 

This very thing does happen, however, in communist countries. And it’s happening more frequently in our own country. Although we don’t live under Pharaoh, we do see his spiritual equivalent in a humanistic attitude in our government and especially our educational system. Pharaoh does not want us to go “with our children.” He’s fine with us leaving on our own, but he wants to keep the children for himself. He knows that if he can raise the children then he can rule the world. This is why we must do everything within our power to share our spiritual journey “with our sons and daughters.” It can’t be a private matter. We can’t just practice our faith and expect our children to catch it. We have to continually strive to bring them along with us—not through coercion or force, but through consistency, integrity and inspiration. We want our children to pass on a legacy of faith to their children and grandchildren as well. The best way we can ensure this continuance is by investing into our children now. We can’t leave them with Pharaoh. We have to take them with us.