Double Mitzvah – Bo

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Maya B. Alma. Maya B. Alma is Jewrotica’s new Double Mitzvah columnist!

Check out our recent guest-written column, Double Mitzvah – Va’eira.

Rated PG

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them, and that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and of your sons’ sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them —in order that you may know that I am the Lord.

Exodus 10:1-2

That’s the point of all the plagues: “In order that you may know.” Discussions about the morality of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart — “how could God punish Egypt so harshly after taking away Pharaoh’s free will?” — are interesting, and often fruitful, but they ignore the plain truth that it was never about punishment. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened as a precursor to God’s putting on a show, and God’s putting on a show was “in order that you may know.”

There are two verbs in Hebrew that mean “to know,” and it’s important to know which one we’re looking at here. One verb, l’hakir, means “to be acquainted with.” The other, lada’at, refers to a deeper, more intimate knowledge. Indeed (and here’s the Jewrotica angle on the parasha), the verb is used throughout the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve (Gen 4:1) as a euphemism for intercourse. It’s from here that we gain the English idiom for sex, “to know someone in the biblical sense.”

What’s the connection between “knowing” and sexual intimacy? Certainly there are other ways to “get to know” someone! But among the “knowings” that are available to human beings, there is perhaps none more intimate than that one. And to think about our “knowing God” in those terms is really something. The Bible understands the human-divine relationship, when truly fulfilled, to be a reflection of the deepest sort of connection human beings can have with one another.

The prophet Hosea says it very well, hearing and transmitting God’s word in language that is intimate, and very nearly sexual. It’s no coincidence that these are the words that are spoken when the tefillin strap is wrapped around the finger, as if to form a wedding band. As the straps are wound, God “speaks” these words to the davvener:

And I will be yours forever:
I will be yours in righteousness and justice,
And in goodness and mercy,
And I will be yours in faithfulness;
Then you shall know the Eternal One.
Hosea 2:21-22

May we blessed to experience the deepest sort of knowing of the Eternal One…and may it be reflected in our relationships, as well. Shabbat Shalom!

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