Pope Francis usually ends his sermons or speeches saying “Pray for me”. But he is not the first one to use this expression:“…Take also your flocks and also your cattle, as you have spoken, and go, but you shall also bless me.” (Ex. 12:32). After the last plague strikes Egypt Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and allows them to go with everything they ask to serve Hashem, but he demands something in return “You shall bless me – Uverachtem Gam Oti”. The Scholars argue about the exact meaning of his request. According to Rashi Pharaoh asks them to pray for him “that I should not die because I am a firstborn”. The Ramban suggest that Pharoah asks for the Israelites to pray for him as a king and for his kingdom. But the real question is, why after everything Pharaoh has done he wants the Israelite people to pray for his welfare? Apparently he does because now he finally understands what suffering is all about (his own son dies!) and how much suffering he has afflicted upon the Israelites for years. He finds himself vulnerable and knows that his entire world is falling apart. He asks for a final act of mercy. A few moments ago he was a God to the Egyptians and now he has to ask his former-slaves to pray on his behalf. He feels powerless.

At the end the Israelites will never pray for Pharaoh but from his request we can all learn an important lesson: we all need people praying for us. Even Pharaoh, and according to the Talmud, even Hashem prays for himself too (Talmud, Brakhot 7a). When we ask someone else to pray for our welfare we are recognizing our humanity and our imperfections, we open our hearts to others expressing that we are vulnerable and in need of help. But we are not only doing that but rather we are empowering others, telling them that they have the power to pray, we are establishing a relationship as equal partners before God.

May we all have the privilege to bless and be blessed!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Uri