The New Shul

Parshat Bo

In this week’s parashah, Bo, God explains to Moshe that the purpose of the plagues in Egypt is an educational one:  “So that you will recount in the ears of your children. . . how I displayed my signs among them. . . and you will know that I am YHWH.” By telling and retelling the story of the signs and wonders, we will insure that future generations know God. Telling leads to knowing.

But Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz interpreted the verse in the opposite way. He understood it to mean that telling depends on knowing. The point is not that we must tell our children so that they will be convinced, but that we must be convinced before we can tell them. Our words will move them only if we truly believe what we say. In other words, the purpose of God’s signs and wonders was to teach the teachers, not the students.

Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz reminds us that the work of educating the next generation is not primarily about our children but about ourselves. The task is to clarify where we ourselves stand, what we are prepared to commit to. Only then will our words truly be heard. Before we can pass down our legacy, we must truly own it.