Parashas Bo, Part 2

I present here a piece relating to this week’s parashah, adapted from my translation of the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim.
In Shir HaShirim 2:4, Knesses Yisrael declares: “Draw me along, and we shall run after You.” The word mashcheini, meaning “draw me along,” can be read with different vowels as mishcheinai – “from my neighbors.” Building on this, the Midrash describes Knesses Yisrael saying to Hashem (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:27): “On account of the booty You gave us from our [Egyptian] neighbors [as described in this week’s parashah – Shemos 3:22], we shall run after You.” We will show how this homiletical teaching serves to bring out the simple meaning of the verse.
The Jewish People’s entreaty – “Draw me along, and we shall run after You” – seems self-contradictory: if the Jewish People are ready to run after Hashem, they do not need to be pulled. But we can view the verse as referring to two complementary spiritual traits: fear of Hashem and love of Hashem. Both traits are discussed in the Torah [e.g., Devarim 10:12], and both are necessary to serve Hashem properly. Thus, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 112:1): “Fortunate is the man who fears Hashem – who greatly desires His commandments.” David mentions fear of Hashem and love of Hashem together in the same verse.
These two traits differ in both origin and effect. Fear of Hashem stems from punishment, and forces a person–as if he were being drawn–to follow the proper path. Love of Hashem, by contrast, stems from natural gratitude for bounty received, and leads a person to run to come close to Hashem. We ask Hashem to instill both traits within us, so that we will serve Him steadfastly.
How can Hashem bring about this result most efficiently? As we just said, the means of instilling fear and the means of instilling love are completely different. The Midrash provides the answer: Hashem can instill both fear and love in our hearts with a single stroke by punishing our enemies and giving their wealth to us, as He did when He took us out of Egypt. We are filled with love for Hashem because of the bounty He has granted us. At the very same time, we are gripped with fear, lest Hashem do to us what He did to our enemies. In this vein, Shlomo HaMelech declares (Mishlei 19:25): “Strike the scoffer, and the simple one grows clever.” This is exactly what happened to the Jews who witnessed the splitting of the Yam Suf (Shemos 14:31): “And the People of Israel saw the mighty hand that Hashem cast against Egypt, and the people feared Hashem ….” When Hashem punished the Egyptians and gave their wealth to us, He instilled within us the fear and love that made us ready to receive the Torah.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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