Parshas Bo
Shemos 10:1 - 13:16

The Path Of Shuvah Does Not Bypass Restitution ©

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

This study is offered in the very loving memory of Ethel Bas Channah Sakash Belk, my mother, who passed away on 22 Kislev, 12/1/1999, may she rest in peace.

In last week’s lesson we discussed the path of struggle. In our discussion I stated that we can only change the things that are within our boundaries. Things outside of our boundaries we have zero control over. We discussed how Moshe appeared to have high expectations when he went to Pharaoh. Then after Pharaoh made B’nei Yisroel’s task more difficult it seemed like Moshe was disappointed, discouraged. Ha Torah records,
‘And he, Moshe, returned to Hashem and said, My Master, why do this? [Why] did You send me? And from then [when] I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name He has caused evil to this people and the deliverance, You have not delivered everything from Aleph to Tav of Your people.’ Shemos 5:22, 23

Now Moshe knew that Hashem was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Hashem told Moshe,
‘I will strengthen everything from Aleph to Tav of his heart, and he will not send out everything from Aleph to Tav of the people.’ Shemos 4:21 Moshe was prepared for that. Yet we do not read anywhere that Moshe told B’nei Yisroel this part of the plan. Therefore B’nei Yisroel may have been set up for a letdown. In the same sense we do not read anywhere that Hashem informed Moshe of what Pharaoh would do to B'nei Yisroel when Hashem hardened his heart, with reference specifically to the additional hardships placed on B’nei Yisroel by collecting their own straw to make bricks, etc. As a result, Moshe also appeared to be set up for a letdown. Why was this necessary? Why didn’t Moshe tell B'nei Yisroel? Why didn’t Hashem tell Moshe? Why would it appear as if Hashem were bringing more suffering on His people? All of these are fair questions.

B'nei Yisroel received part of Moshe’s revelation. Moshe held back some... Moshe received only part of the entire revelation concerning this matter. Hashem held back some. Again, we can only react to the revelation given to us. We can only react to the things within our power. Here we observe the pain and the suffering that resulted from an incomplete revelation. In fact it was right here at this point that Hashem said to Moshe,
‘And I revealed [Myself] to Avraham, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov as Alm-ghty Shaddai, and by My Name Hashem [representing Grace / Mercy] I was not recognized by them.’ Shemos 6:3 What does this mean?

From this we see that the issue has to do with a change in revelation between G-d and His people. Hashem was setting the groundwork to introduce His attribute of Grace, His fulfillment of promises. Since Hashem did not reveal everything to Moshe and since Moshe did not reveal everything to B'nei Yisroel, it became very easy for Moshe to understand the impact of a partial revelation or a clouded revelation. From this point on Hashem spoke to Moshe face to face. Moshe’s revelation was clear.. Never again do we read that Moshe withheld anything from B'nei Yisroel that Hashem gave him or told him to speak... This is why Hashem later states,
‘...Mouth to mouth I speak to him [Moshe], and from a vision and not in enigma and at the Likeness of Hashem he gazes.’ Bamidbar 12:8 Moshe learned the importance of a clear revelation.

Hashem’s Introduction of Grace and Mercy to B’nei Yisroel As we have shown, Moshe was in part responsible for not sharing his entire revelation with B'nei Yisroel. When he complained to Hashem,
‘[Pharaoh] has caused evil to this people and the deliverance, You have not delivered everything from Aleph to Tav of Your people’ {Shemos 5: 23}, Moshe was ALREADY speaking from the foundation of this new revelation. Moshe clearly, firmly had the revelation of deliverance given to him by Hashem at the Burning Bush. Moshe was speaking to Hashem from the position of the fulfilled promise, from the position of the delivered nation.

B'nei Yisroel. They were in the world in which G-d as ‘Alm-ghty Shaddai’ was able to fulfill His promise to Avraham, to Yitzchok and to Yaakov. Moshe in his revelation had already tasted this deliverance. He had experienced this deliverance. Now the past way of doing things was about to end and a new way of doing things was about to begin. Under the past revelation, the revelation of ‘Alm-ghty Shaddai,’ strict justice was adhered to. What B'nei Yisroel experienced at the hands of Pharaoh was in essence a judgment of G-d under their present revelation of ‘Alm-ghty Shaddai.’ Under the revelation of Hashem where Moshe was now viewing things from, this would have been considered harm.

So in last week’s parsha a transition period began for B'nei Yisroel from the attribute of ‘Alm-ghty Shaddai’ to the attribute of HASHEM meaning the Name that was actually fulfilling the promise. Both this week’s parsha, Bo, and next week’s parsha, Beshalach, are part of this transition period.

Not only did Hashem promise to deliver B'nei Yisroel but also to judge Mitzriam,
‘And also everything from Aleph to Tav of the nation that they served [Mitzriam] I will judge...’ Yes! [then] afterwards they will go out with great wealth.’ Bereishis 15:14

This brings us to the issue of restitution. In our struggle to continue turning over a new leaf to break away from our past problems, habits, or addictions we cannot forget RESTITUTION. Pharaoh and all of Mitzriam would not be allowed to go unpunished. They would have to pay restitution. Again, last week’s parsha, this week’s parsha and next week’s parsha describe the fulfillment of the promise of ‘Alm-ghty Shaddai’... ‘I will judge.’

In our struggles we cannot escape paying for our misdeeds. We may think that we can, but G-d as Eternal Judge will exact Judgment. No misdeed goes unpaid and no good deed goes unrewarded! One should not expect a full pardon after living a life of sinfulness. That is not to say that G-d does not take into consideration shuvah, true attitudes of repentance. G-d does! Yet we must pay restitution for the damages our sin caused!

For example, I know a father who when he was young raised his oldest son very harshly. Later another son was born who he raised with kindness. The first son when he became an adult remembered the many beatings he experienced. He remembered the verbal abuse he suffered from his father among other things. Now over the years the father as he matured recognized his wrong. He did shuvah. He became observant. He began changing his life. Do you think all the good he was now doing erased the damages of his misdeeds to the first son? In the eyes of the this son it did not.

I know the story of a man who for years cheated on his wife. Then one day he did teshuvah. He was genuinely sorry for his adulterous past. He decided to keep his past sins to himself. His wife did not know. After he did teshuvah, after he began turning his life around, his wife learned of his sinful past. Do you think his teshuvah alone served as adequate restitution? Only G-d knows.

A lady bookkeeper embezzled thousands of dollars from a Jewish school. When her actions became apparent, the administrators confronted her. She cried and said she was sorry. Should her apology be adequate to pay for the thousands she embezzled? Should all be forgiven and forgotten? Would that be fair?

As we travel on our road to freedom, as we begin to succeed and as we begin walking the paths of shuvah, we must remember there are unsettled debts from our sinful past still hanging on. Pharaoh was now facing these debts. That is why we read,
‘And I will harden everything from Aleph to Tav of Pharaoh’s heart, [in order to] increase from Aleph to Tav of My signs and everything from Aleph to Tav of wonders in the land of Mitzriam. And [as a result] Pharaoh will not listen to you. And then I place everything from Aleph to Tav of a hand in Mitzriam and [then] I will bring out everything from Aleph to Tav of My Multitude everything from Aleph to Tav of My people, B’nei Yisroel, from the land of Mitzriam with great Judgments.’ Shemos 7:3,4 This is not the attribute of G-d, {Elokim} the Eternal Judge, here. It is not G-d as ‘Alm-ghty Shaddai.’ It is the attribute of Hashem’s great Mercy and great Kindness here towards B’nei Yisroel.

Those who do teshuvah must realize that G-d’s judgment - His retribution for sin - is required even though it is tempered with Grace, Mercy and Kindness. In situations like this where Mitzriam did not do teshuvah for their extreme sin Hashem brought retribution which was very devastating even though it was from the most loving attribute of G-d’s Nature. One can only imagine the result had the judgment come from the attribute of Elokim.

Here we see the attribute of G-d’s Grace in a role unfamiliar to many. So many think that a simple prayer asking for forgiveness for a particular sin is instantly covered by G-d’s Grace. IT IS if we do teshuvah. Teshuvah includes restitution. I am not denying that. However, from this historical story, we learn that G-d’s Grace is not some soft-spoken, meek, spineless, unchallenging, blind attribute. G-d’s Grace does realize justice for the unrepentant The judgment of Mitzriam is proof of this.

In addition Mitzriam did pay a form of financial restitution for all the years of slavery with gold, silver and jewels, etc.

Blessings and Peace!

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

Written in 5760
Updated in 5764

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