• 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 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. 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. Each and every single one of us has 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 would 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, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe delivered G‑d’s warning to Pharaoh: “At midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the slave woman…” G‑d then gave the Israelites their first mitzvah, that of determining the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh) each month and establishing a lunar calendar. G‑d also told Moshe to instruct the Israelites to designate a lamb for the Paschal Offering. The Israelites were to sacrifice this lamb and consume it, together with matzah and bitter herbs, on the eve of the fifteenth of Nissan. The blood of the lamb was to be smeared on the lintels and doorposts of the Israelite residences, and all inside those homes would be spared when G‑d descended to smite the Egyptian firstborn. G‑d also instructed that for all future generations this day would signal the beginning of the seven-day holiday of Passover, during which no leaven can be eaten or possessed.

    The Torah describes the tranquility of the Jewish area with the statement “a dog didn’t even bark”. Dogs usually sense death and instinctively react. To highlight the contrast between the Egyptians and the Israelites, the dogs were miraculously silent. In “tribute” to the dogs for their role in bringing greater honor and appreciation to G-d on the night of the Exodus, the Torah rewards them by telling us (elsewhere) to throw our non-kosher meat to the dogs (this applies only when a forbidden food isn’t also forbidden to derive other benefit therefrom.) Thus we have an unusual lesson in acknowledging the good that another does for you.

  • Daily Aliya for Bo, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Pharaoh summoned Moshe again, offering to release the Israelites if they leave behind their cattle. Moshe refused the condition. Pharaoh sent Moshe away, warning him to never appear in his presence again, “for on the day that you see my face, you shall die!” Moshe agreed, but not before he delivered a final message that G‑d relayed to him at that moment. G‑d told Moshe that he would visit one more plague upon Egypt, after which Pharaoh will actually drive the Israelites from his land. Parenthetically, at that time G‑d also instructed Moshe to ask the Israelites to borrow from their Egyptian neighbors jewels, silver and gold. The Israelites complied, and the Egyptians readily lent out their valuables.

    Moshe’s words to Paroh are: “We will also take our animals with us, for from them we will take to serve G-d.” The plain understanding of the passuk is that Moshe was referring to sacrifices. The Malbim has another beautiful interpretation of Moshe’s statement to Paroh. “From the animals we will take lessons in how to serve G-d – from the cat we will learn modesty, from the doves fidelity, from the ants industry and honesty, etc.” Had we not received the Torah, which teaches us proper conduct, we would learn these lessons from our animals (and even with the Torah to teach us, we can see practical examples of its lessons in nature.)

  • Daily Aliya for Bo, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe stretched out his hands and swarms of locusts swept down on Egypt. They consumed absolutely every blade of grass and all the crops. Pharaoh beseeched Moshe to pray to G‑d for the removal of the locusts, promising to then release the Israelites. Moshe prayed, and no sooner than a wind carried the locusts back to the Red Sea and Pharaoh changed his mind yet again. Plague Nine: A frightful darkness descended upon Egypt. For days, the entire nation was incapacitated by the debilitating pitch darkness. “But for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”

    “Man did not see his fellow, nor did a person rise from his place…” The Chidushei HaRim writes that this is a description of the worse kind of darkness in human life, when a person does not see the suffering of his fellow. Not only does he not extend his hand to help the other, but the ultimate result is the inability of the individual to even help himself. The opposite must be true as well, then. Seeing the suffering of others is the ultimate “light at the end of the tunnel”, both for the sufferer, and for their “fellows.”

  • Daily Aliya for Bo, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: In this week’s Parsha, Bo, the last three plagues – Locust, Darkness, and Death of the Firstborn – are inflicted upon the Egyptians. Moshe commands the Israelites concerning the Paschal Offering and the laws of the seder. After the final plague, Pharaoh unconditionally releases the Israelites from his land.

    Aliya Summary: Plague Eight: At G‑d’s behest, Moshe and Aaron went to Pharaoh and delivered a warning: “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let My people go so that they can worship me!” They informed Pharaoh that if he does not allow the Israelites to go, Egypt will be attacked by a plague of locust. After Moshe and Aaron left, Pharaoh’s servants begged him to allow the Israelites to leave. “Don’t you yet know that Egypt is lost?” they argued. Pharaoh called back Moshe and Aaron and offered to allow the Israelites to leave—provided that they leave behind their children as security. Moshe and Aaron refused the offer, and Pharaoh stubbornly refused to allow the Israelites to go.

  • Dvar for Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:34)

    The Hebrew language has so many hidden lessons, and one such lesson lies within this week’s Parsha (portion), Vaeira, where G-d promises to take the Jews from under the ‘burdens’ of Egypt (6:6). But as the Rebbi of Gur explains, the Hebrew word that means ‘burden’ also means ‘tolerant’, which would make the Passuk (verse) read…”I will deliver you from being tolerant of Egypt”. We find proof for this tolerance when even after the Jews were released from Egypt, when the situation looked bleak, they wanted to go back to slavery. Had their slavery been such a burden, why would they ever consider going back?

    The answer is that the problem was not that they were overworked, but that they were too tolerant of their surroundings! Hashem therefore told them, and is telling us, that the first step Jews have to take is to realize when we are ‘slaves’ to our society. If we tolerate our surroundings, not only will we not appreciate how LUCKY we are to be different, but also we’ll forget that we even ARE different! In a society where some people hide their religious identity, the Torah is telling us to always keep in mind our ultimate differences as Jews, to never settle for being just like everyone else, and to love it, show it, and prove it in constructive ways every chance we get! In response to this Parsha, we should all pick one way to show the world, and OURSELVES what it means to be a Jew, whether it’s by volunteering to visit the sick, to give charity, or to say one Perek (paragraph) of Tehillim (Psalm) every day. Find a way to find your way!

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

    Aliya Summary: Plague Seven: Moshe warned Pharaoh that a catastrophic hail would descend upon the land. Man or beast that would remain in the field would be killed by the hailstones. Moshe stretched his rod toward heaven and hail poured down—with fire blazing inside the icy hail. Aside for damage to humans and animal, the hail destroyed all vegetation and trees. Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aaron. “I have sinned this time,” he declared. “The Lord is the righteous One, and I and my people are the guilty ones. Entreat the Lord, and let it be enough of God’s thunder and hail, and I will let you go…” Moshe prayed. The hail stopped. And Pharaoh changed his mind yet again.

    When Moshe tells Par’o that the plague of Hail will end, he says that the thunder will stop and the hail will no longer be. The terminology implies that the thunder will temporarily stop but the hail will completely end. And so it was, points out the Baal HaTurim, the hail did in fact cease, but the thunder returned to accompany the awe-inspiring events of the Sinai Experience.

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