For the week ending 8 January 2011 / 2 Shevat 5771

Parshat Bo

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe that He is hardening Pharaoh's heart so that through miraculous plagues the world will know for all time that He is the one true G-d. Pharaoh is warned about the plague of locusts and is told how severe it will be. Pharaoh agrees to release only the men, but Moshe insists that everyone must go. During the plague, Pharaoh calls for Moshe and Aharon to remove the locusts, and he admits he has sinned. G-d ends the plague but hardens Pharaoh's heart, and again Pharaoh fails to free the Jews. The country, except for the Jewish People, is then engulfed in a palpable darkness. Pharaoh calls for Moshe and tells him to take all the Jews out of Egypt, but to leave their flocks behind. Moshe tells him that not only will they take their own flocks, but Pharaoh must add his own too. Moshe tells Pharaoh that G-d is going to bring one more plague, the death of the first-born, and then the Jews will leave Egypt. G-d again hardens Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh warns Moshe that if he sees him again, Moshe will be put to death. G-d tells Moshe that the month of Nissan will be the chief month. The Jewish people are commanded to take a sheep on the 10th of the month and guard it until the 14th. The sheep is then to be slaughtered as a Pesach offering, its blood put on their door-posts, and its roasted meat eaten. The blood on the door-post will be a sign that their homes will be passed-over when G-d strikes the first-born of Egypt. The Jewish People are told to memorialize this day as the Exodus from Egypt by never eating chametz on Pesach. Moshe relays G-d's commands, and the Jewish People fulfill them flawlessly. G-d sends the final plague, killing the first-born, and Pharaoh sends the Jews out of Egypt. G-d tells Moshe and Aharon the laws concerning the Pesach sacrifice, pidyon haben (redemption of the first-born son) and tefillin .


The Young And The Restless

“…it was on that very day that all the legions of G-d left the landof Egypt.” (12:4)

Society has no truer mirror than its advertising.

What motivates people to put their hands in their pockets and pull out their hard-earned cash must appeal to their innermost desires. And what someone wants, what he truly desires — is who he is.

Think, for a moment, of all those car ads filmed in the desert. There’s no one for fifty miles in any direction. Climb behind the wheel and you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. You can be whatever you want. Think of all those ads for away-from-it-all vacations (whatever the dreaded “it” might be). They all express the same ideal:

The commitment to being uncommitted.

The freedom to do what I want when I want, and to change what I want from one moment to the next.

Society pays lip service to the ideals of commitment, stability, and fidelity. Advertising, however, gives the lie to that sanctimony and reveals that society’s real aspiration is to be free to “go with the flow.”

Unfortunately, modern secular man finds his flow severely restricted. At every turn, he is encumbered by commitments: a home, a spouse, children, a mortgage, a second mortgage, a second wife. What he would really like to do is to take off and travel the world with a credit card and unlimited credit — to follow any, or all, of a myriad of possibilities. The fact that he tolerates responsibility doesn’t mean that he has accepted a specific form and purpose to his life. He’d really like to be somewhere else, anywhere else, everywhere else.

From where does this ideology of irresponsibility come? Is this desire for constant change a new phenomenon, or does it have its roots in something much more ancient?

Ancient Egyptwas an entire society dedicated to the pursuit of infinite variety.

The Egyptians worshipped the Nile, because, quite literally, water is the ultimate symbol of going with the flow, of infinite diversity. For this reason the word for water in Hebrew — mayim — is a plural noun, because water has no inherent shape. It always takes on the shape of the vessel it fills.

A society that lauds incessant variety, by definition, rejects and scorns marital fidelity.

No slave ever escaped from Egyptbecause, for a slave, it was simply the greatest place in the world. There was no pleasure, however exotic or bizarre, that was unavailable to the Egyptians, and those pleasures that the natural world could not afford were conjured by the black arts.

Almost the entire book of Mishle (Proverbs) by King Solomon is a denigration of the ‘isha zara ’ — the unfaithful wife, the antithesis of the ‘aishet chayil ’, the Jewish woman of valor, whose praise closes the book. Egyptwas this faithless spouse who seeks a new partner constantly, a new form. Inconstant as water, she wants to go with the flow.

In diametrical opposition to this culture stands the Jewish home. The spiritual Jewish Masters refer to a wife as the “home.” The Jewish home represents the ultimate triumph of the aishet chayil , the woman of valor, who rejects the culture of 'new' and remains unchangingly faithful to her spouse.

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