• Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    In preparation for the last plague, Moshe instructs the Jews to place blood from the lamb on their doorposts so that G-d will “pasach” their entrance. Rashi interprets “pasach” to mean that G-d will either “have pity” or “skip over” the Jewish homes (12:23) and smite only the Egyptian homes. While skipping over Jewish homes makes sense, why would Rashi translate G-d’s actions as having pity?

    Rabbi Yochanan Zweig proposes that many Jews considered themselves Jewish Egyptians, after being enslaved and enduring the previous plagues. For the Jews that self-identified as Egyptian Jews – G-d happily skipped over and saved them. Those who identified themselves as Egyptians but still put the blood on their doorposts were saved as well, but out of pity rather than merit.

    While identifying with our past is important and admirable, it is foundational to our identity and it is that which enables us to actively identify as a Jew in the present. As grateful as we must be for the freedoms and liberties of the country in which we live, we are forever indebted to our ancestors for getting us to this place so that we may thrive as a Jewish people.

  • Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    Our Parsha, Bo, starts with the eighth plague, as G-d informs Moshe that the last of the plagues are signs of G-d’s dominance (10:1). The next Passuk (verse) starts with a unique word “ulema’an,” (“and in order”) that you tell your children about the signs and miracles that G-d performed on our behalf (10:2). The only other time the word “ulema’an” is used is in reference to honoring your parents, proclaiming that the reward of honoring one’s parents is long life, “and in order” that things go well with us (Deut. 5:16). Wouldn’t the first seven plagues convey G-d’s dominance and greatness? What makes the last few plagues different? Also, what is the connection to honoring one’s parents? 

    Rabbi Yochanan Zweig offers a fascinating insight. He explains that the purpose of the last plagues wasn’t to show the Egyptians of G-d’s dominance, because that was already obvious. It was to show the Jewish people how much they mean to G-d and what He was willing to do for them. Similarly, the requirement to honor our parents is intended to benefit both them and ourselves by expressing how important they are to us.

    Love and honor benefit everyone, but only when they’re expressed. “And in order” that our children know that they are loved, “and in order” that our parents know that they are loved and appreciated for everything that they have done for us. Only by expressing affection to our loved ones can we perpetuate that love and hope to merit its growth.  

  • Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    Parshat Bo describes the final 3 plagues before Paroh kicks out the Hebrews. The first plague in this Parsha is “Arbeh”, or locust (10:12). Ironically, the same word “arbeh” is used after the Akeida, when G-d promises Araham that his offspring will be many (Gen. 22:17). There, “arbeh” means that G-d will multiply Avraham’s descendants. Why would the same word be used to describe a plague and a promise of a great future? Also, when this plague started, the locusts were brought in by an east wind (10:13). Why is that important for us to know?

    The plague of locusts also included darkness caused by the quantity of locusts in the air, because this also describes Paroh’s distorted vision of what the Hebrews represented. In fact, the entire plague could be a metaphor: People that came from the east (Canaan is east of Egypt), multiplied, and Paroh perceived to be a threat, when in fact they were just doing what G-d had promised their ancestors would happen. The only difference between reality and Paroh’s perception of reality is his perspective, which explains why the same word can describe both.

    Sometimes we need to reorient our perspective, make sure our goals aren’t misguided, and recommit ourselves to reaching those goals.

  • Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    Parshat Bo continues with the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians, and the exodus that followed. We find one interesting event that happened when Paroh called in Moshe and Aaron to bargain with them, right after being warned of the upcoming locust plague (10:8-11). After offering to allow only the men to go, and being rejected, Paroh kicked Moshe and Aaron out of the palace. The “Riva” wonders why they waited until they were kicked out of the palace, when they could have left before it got to that point. The Riva answers that had Moshe and Aaron left before being told to leave, they would have shown a lack of respect for Paroh, thereby embarrassing him. Since it was Paroh that had originally invited them, and since he was the ruler of the land they were in, they showed him respect by not leaving until he told them to, despite their embarrassment.

    This amazing lesson in humility is even backed up by the events surrounding it. Locust, the plague directly following the story, was started by Moshe stretching his hands on the ground, symbolizing humility. We each have a common, ongoing struggle throughout our lives – our ego. If we simply stopped, thought, and realized about every time we felt cheated or angry, we’d realize that it’s our own ego that’s letting us get angry or feel cheated, and if we learned to set that ego aside, we could accomplish so much more, comparable to the accomplishments of Moshe and Aaron. Our ego will control our action and reactions, unless we learn to control it.

  • Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    Parshat Bo contains the very first commandment the Jews received as a nation; the Mitzvah to have a Rosh Chodesh (new month), and to mark the beginning of every month thereafter (Exodus 12:2). What makes this commandment so important for it to be the very first commandment for the Jews as a people? Also, when describing the first month that the Jews need to acknowledge, the Torah fails to name that month. If the Torah values the months, wouldn’t it be important for the Torah to name those months, just like the Torah names important places the Jews had traveled through?

    The Ramban explains that the Torah referred to the months as “first”, “second” and so on, because the numbers refer to how many months the Jews were removed from the moment when we were established as a people. This helps focus our attention to the most important moment we had as a nation. It also focuses us on something else; The months we now controlled (both in name and in timing) dictate when holidays occur, when customs are performed, and even when G-d judges us. The very first commandment is the one that empowers us the most. The first commandment as a nation makes us partners with G-d, because although we didn’t determine the holidays to celebrate, we do determine when they are celebrated. So every time we celebrate Rosh Chodesh (like today), we should celebrate our partnership with G-d, and our being empowered to individually “name” the month as we, as a people, see fit.

  • Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    NEW

    Parshat Bo continues with the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians, and the exodus that followed. We find one interesting event that happened when Paroh called in Moshe and Aaron to bargain with them, right after being warned of the upcoming locust plague (10:8-11). After offering to allow only the men to go, and being rejected, Paroh kicked Moshe and Aaron out of the palace. The “Riva” wonders why they waited until they were kicked out of the palace, when they could have left before it got to that point. The Riva answers that had Moshe and Aaron left before being told to leave, they would have shown a lack of respect for Paroh, thereby embarrassing him. Since it was Paroh that had originally invited them, and since he was the ruler of the land they were in, they showed him respect by not leaving until he told them to, despite their embarrassment.

    This amazing lesson in humility is even backed up by the events surrounding it. Locust, the plague directly following the story, was started by Moshe stretching his hands on the ground, symbolizing humility. We each have a common, ongoing struggle throughout our lives – our ego. If we simply stopped, thought, and realized about every time we felt cheated or angry, we’d realize that it’s our own ego that’s letting us get angry or feel cheated, and if we learned to set that ego aside, we could accomplish so much more, comparable to the accomplishments of Moshe and Aaron. Our ego will control our action and reactions, unless we learn to control it.

  • Daily Aliya for Bo, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d gave the Israelites several mitzvot: 1) All male Israelite firstborn were henceforth sanctified to G‑d. 2) Eat matzah on Passover. 3) Recount the story of the Exodus at the Passover seder. 4) Bring all male firstborn of kosher as sacrifices. 5) Redeem all male firstborn donkeys for a sheep—which is then brought as a sacrifice. 6) Don tefillin on the head and arm.

    If the donkey owner refuses to redeem it, he must destroy it. Although this too is counted among the 613 commandments of the Torah, it is clear that the Torah prefers the owner to redeem it and not resort to the wasteful alternative. Although one can get out of this mitzvah by selling a part interest in the mother donkey to a non-Jew before the firstborn is delivered, the Shulchan Aruch forbids doing so, since the opportunity to do a mitzvah would be lost. The reason the Shulchan Aruch had to warn us not to get out of this mitzvah is that in the previous section it taught the same “legal technicality” (partnership with a non-Jew in the expectant mother) that would succeed in our not having a mitzvah to perform. In one case, kosher animal, it is too problematic without a temple to allow the mitzvah to exist (so to speak). In the other, donkey, the mitzvah can be performed any time, and so it should not be avoided.

  • Daily Aliya for Bo, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Plague Ten: At the stroke of midnight G‑d slew all the Egyptian firstborn. No Egyptian home was spared, and Egypt erupted in a great outcry. Pharaoh awoke and raced to Moshe and begged him to take the Israelites and leave. The Egyptians pressured the Israelites to leave as soon as possible, and the Israelites complied. Equipped with all the valuables they had borrowed from the Egyptians, and provisions for the way – dough that was baked before having time to rise – the Israelites left Egypt at midday of the fifteenth of Nissan. This Aliya concludes with some more rules that pertain to the Paschal Offering.

    The period of Egyptian “Slavery” is given as 400 years and as 430 years. An interesting Drash on the extra 30 years is that it corresponds to 210 years of Egyptian slavery where they were not granted rest on Shabbat. A reasonable master would allow his slaves one day a week off, but Paroh was excessively oppressive, not allowing the Jews to rest even one day. These extra 30 years of Shabbatot are acknowledged by G-d, so to speak, by being added to the total, and by being featured in the Jews’ new code of law.

  • Daily Aliya for Bo, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe gathers the elders of the People and relays G-d’s instructions. He also tells them that when the People get to Israel, they will continue to commemorate the events of the Exodus, with questions and answers between the generations.

    Not only is going into Israel part of the Promises of Redemption, but in the statement of the laws of the Pesach offering there is reference to “when you will come to the Land…”, almost like going to Israel is a law, and an inevitable fact (when, not if).

  • Dvar for Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

    Parshat Bo contains the very first commandment the Jews received as a nation; the Mitzvah to have a Rosh Chodesh (new month), and to mark the beginning of every month thereafter (Exodus 12:2). What makes this commandment so important for it to be the very first commandment for the Jews as a people? Also, when describing the first month that the Jews need to acknowledge, the Torah fails to name that month. If the Torah values the months, wouldn’t it be important for the Torah to name those months, just like the Torah names important places the Jews had traveled through?

    The Ramban explains that the Torah referred to the months as “first”, “second” and so on, because the numbers refer to how many months the Jews were removed from the moment when we were established as a people. This helps focus our attention to the most important moment we had as a nation. It also focuses us on something else; The months we now controlled (both in name and in timing) dictate when holidays occur, when customs are performed, and even when G-d judges us. The very first commandment is the one that empowers us the most. The first commandment as a nation makes us partners with G-d, because although we didn’t determine the holidays to celebrate, we do determine when they are celebrated. So every time we celebrate Rosh Chodesh (like today), we should celebrate our partnership with G-d, and our being empowered to individually “name” the month as we, as a people, see fit.

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