Come on in!

Friday, 19 January, 2024 - 8:27 am

In 1951 on the tenth of Shevat (which is marked tomorrow) the Lubavitcher Rebbe accepted the leadership of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. He had actually been leading the Chassidim ever since his father-in-law’s passing in 1950. But, he did not formally accept the role of Rebbe until Yud Shevat a year later.

During his inaugural address the Rebbe expounded upon a verse in Shir Hashirim (Son of Songs), which states: “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride.” Quoting the Midrash, the Rebbe explained that Almighty G-d is stating that He wishes to return to His garden, which is this world.

The beginning of Creation saw G-d comfortably “at home” in His garden, the Garden of Eden. However, subsequent human failures caused Hashem to feel less at home. This is the underpinning of suffering and darkness in this world.

But, G-d’s true desire is to return. This time around, however, He depends on us. When we will cultivate the garden and make it a befitting home of G-d, He will come back in. Then, He will fully manifest Himself in this world.

In other words, at his very first address, the Rebbe was highlighting that the Torah’s view on this world is a very rosy picture indeed. It is G-d’s garden. It might be a bit of a mess, but we can fix that. In fact, Hashem depends on us to clean it up.

This is the cornerstone of the Rebbe’s consummate optimism and drive. Hashem is eager to come back into the garden. And, we are privileged to be His partners.

This shot in the arm catapulted Yiddishkeit from the ashes of the Holocaust and pogroms to the heights of Jewish pride and revival.

And, this helps us understand a key word in the opening of this week’s parsha. The prasha is named Bo, which means “Come.” It is named after the opening words, “G‑d said to Moshe: ‘Come in to Pharaoh.’”

The commentaries are perplexed. Why does Hashem say come into Pharaoh? It would seem more appropriate to instruct Moshe, “Go to Pharaoh.” Obviously, Hashem doesn’t like to hang out with the wicked Pharaoh, so why does the verse state, “Come to Pharaoh,” as if Hashem and Pharaoh are together?

Pharaoh was the wicked king of Egypt. The Jews had been enslaved and suffered for many years under his tyranny.

It would be easy to assume that Pharaoh and Egypt were a place and system to be despised. As such, it might paint a very negative color on the big world we live in. Moshe and the Jews might surmise that in order to survive they should run as far away as possible from the big bad world. By entering a cocoon of holiness, they may argue, we can ensure a sacred relationship with G-d.

But, that would be the wrong approach.

Instead, Hashem tells Moshe, “Come with me. Let’s go together into the darkest places of this world and lift it up. Let’s shine a light and make this world a true garden. Let’s recognize that a garden requires cultivation. Sometimes you need to discard the harmful (like Pharaoh), but overall the point is to create growth and beauty from everything in the garden.”

The Rebbe believed that each of us were appointed by G-d Himself to be partners in His lovely garden.

Let’s start believing in ourselves – and our garden – as well.

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