Homegrown Humility and Proud Paroh Eli Gartenberg


The Gemara (Megillah 28a) discusses what several rabbis did to merit living long lives. The last Amora mentioned, Rav Zeira, shares that he was never visibly angry in his house, never walked before a greater person, never rejoiced in the disadvantaged situations of others, and never called other people names, or even by their last name if it was degrading to them. All of these display that Rav Zeira was always careful not to be arrogant, especially in public, and he was rewarded with long life for this.

In Parashat Bo, however, we see quite the opposite regarding Paroh. Paroh was extremely arrogant and was accordingly punished with Ten Makkot. This week’s Parashah repeats (Shemot 10:20; 10:27; 11:10), “VaYechazeik Hashem Et Lev Paroh,” “Hashem strengthened Paroh’s heart.” Hashem had ample opportunity to punish Paroh, since the Mitzri kings were so arrogant that they thought themselves gods who could control everything around them. This is the exact opposite of Rav Zeira’s mentality. Additionally, Rav Zeira had to work hard to become a great Talmid Chacham, while Paroh was presumably born into his stature and, instead of being thankful and humble for his high standing in society, he just became more arrogant.

Besides Paroh’s arrogance, Our Parashah records two of the four Parshiyot found in Tefillin (13:1-10 [Kadesh Li Kol Bechor] and 13:11-16 [VeHayah Ki Yeviacha]). One of Rav Zeira’s final comments in the Gemara was that he never walked four Amot without learning Torah or wearing Tefillin. Tefillin remind us everyday that we are constantly in Hashem’s service, unlike the arrogant Paroh, who believed the entire world revolved around him. Hopefully, we can model Rav Zeira’s humility and not Paroh’s arrogance, with the cognizance that our lives are dedicated to Hashem.

The Significance of Sheim Hashem in Shirat HaYam by Gavi Dov Hochzstein

Teshuvah for Everyone by Eli Lehman