Get Email Updates!

Ad Bo-eina Shama - Until We Are There

After the plague of darkness - three days of darkness so thick the Egyptians could not see one another or leave their homes - Pharaoh told Moses the children of Israel they could leave but they must leave their flocks and herds behind. Moses answered: "Our cattle also shall go with us: there shall not be a hoof left behind: for of them must we take to serve the Lord our God: and we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come there." Ex. 10:26.

Isn't this what we long for - being in that place where we will know what we must do to serve the lord. Until we arrive there, we wander about, on our way, picking up this or that, hoping that these are the things we will need. And then acquiring more, just in case we get there without the thing we actually will need.

The Egyptians endured three days of darkness, but this is a trivial amount of time compared to the reality of our condition. For the most part, we live whole lives in darkness, groping to do the best we can, not really sure where we're going or when we'll arrive.

Or we live our lives as if we are not even yet on our way, as if we are still in bondage in Mizraim, waiting out the days until Pharaoh's heart is softened and we are released.

For the most part, it takes some dramatic event to wake us up to how we are living our lives and what it is we truly need now and at the end of our journeying. Death of a loved one is one of those events. The memories, regrets, and nagging realizations after the death that, yes, there will be no future conversations or physical presence in this life - and how then should we treat other loved ones. Death by suicide is even more of a wake up. Two years ago during the week of parshat Bo, a friend committed suicide. Such a wonderful, warm, witty, vibrant, caring person - how could he have done this? And the more important questions: what did we miss? was there anything we could have done that would have made a difference? are we missing these cues now for those we have still with us?

And more questions: Why are our lives so closed off? Why is what is most important for each of us locked away from public view? Kept locked away so others cannot see? Kept hidden for fear - justified fear - that exposing weakness and need will only let those who would hurt us flourish. But if we can't trust in the humanity of those in our lives, then what sort of lives are we living?

Moses tells Pharaoh the Israelites must take all their cattle when they leave, because of them they must serve the Lord, and, because they are setting out for new territory, and they can not know what they will need to serve the Lord until they arrive there.

If our every moment is to be a consecrated one, a conscious one, how can we ever meet the task? All too often the moment is past before we figure out the right word, the real, unspoken need. We cannot know what we will need to serve the Lord, it seems, until long after we arrive there. If ever.


Ad Bo-eina Shama - Until We Are There
A Dvar Torah in Verse


The children must go,
And the women.
The cattle too must go,
All of them,
not a hoof left behind,
for we cannot know
what we will need to serve the Lord
until we are there.
And where is there?
When will we know we have arrived?
Perhaps we are still arriving,
still traveling?
And how many cattle can we eat along the way?
And if we err and there are not enough?
This is a tricky one, this new God,
one who strikes out,
powerful and strange.
One who demands we sacrifice our first born
but then lets us ransom them back.
Not like the other gods.
This one kills the ones
who run to do the new God extra honor.
Only this much . . . no more.
That must be the rule?
Constant vigilance?
This new God bears watching.
We are like dogs learning the rules --
to heel, to sit,
where and when we can obey our instincts,
and mostly when we cannot.
A God who may pat us on the head
if we are properly fawning and obedient.
But who may not.


Overladen with cattle, children,
we cannot travel light.
We are a noisy caravan through the midbar,
That Pharaoh - a hard master, demanding,
but you knew where you stood with him.
You knew how life would be each day.
But this one, this new master.
Do we take asheras?
Or cattle?
A little of this or that just in case?
We do not know what we must use to serve
the Lord until we arrive there.
And will we know even then?
Will there be a moment of clarity,
when all of life is known and understood?
Or will there be that one second of clarity,
then rapidly receding,
like the memory of the memory
of having dreamt something.
Or will it be like the day after the suicide,
when now we know
everything before was a lie,
that we never knew,
failed to act in time.
What if we are too late - or wrong?
What if it wasn't cattle but camels?
What if we never arrive there
but instead live our lives waiting to arrive,
never certain,
like watchdogs,
jumping up to bark at every noise,
the slightest vibration,
smells no one else senses?
Shushed and told:
Be quiet. Lie down.
But why?
And when is the right moment
to sound the alarm?
How can we live this way?
How long can we live this way?
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah

This is the archival site for It is no longer updated.

For the new site, please visit