Torah Weekly - Parshat Bo

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Parshat Bo

For the week ending 8 Shevat Tevet 5760 / 14 & 15 January 2000

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    Hashem 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. Hashem 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 Hashem is going to bring one more plague, the death of the firstborn, and then the Jews will leave Egypt. Hashem again hardens Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh warns Moshe that if he sees him again, Moshe will be put to death. Hashem 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 Hashem strikes the firstborn of Egypt. The Jewish People are told to memorialize this day as the Exodus from Egypt by never eating chametz on Pesach. Moshe relays Hashem's commands, and the Jewish People fulfill them flawlessly. Hashem sends the final plague, killing the first born, and Pharaoh sends the Jews out of Egypt. Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon the laws concerning the Pesach sacrifice, pidyon haben (redemption of the first born son) and tefillin.




    "And it shall be when your child will ask you at some future time, 'What is this?' you shall say to him, 'With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt from the house of bondage." (13:14)

    Every schoolboy's dream is to be invited into the cabin of a large airplane flying at 35,000 feet above an azure sea, sailing by fluffy cumulus clouds as high as the Empire State building. Sitting in the captain's seat, he watches the joy-stick being moved by some unseen hand as the auto-pilot eerily corrects the smallest deviation in the aircraft's altitude...

    But it's not only aircraft that need the correct attitude.

    Imagine our young schoolboy turning to the pilot and nonchalantly asking: "Excuse me captain, but what is the purpose of the third green button in the fourth array of the second bank in the left-hand rear panel above the co-pilot's seat?" The captain replies, "And the function of all the other 532 buttons in this cockpit are self-explanatory?! You understand what every button, lever and dial does in this cockpit except for that one?!"

    And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, 'What is this?' you shall say to him, 'With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt, from the house of bondage.'

    Rashi says that the question "What is this?" characterizes the son as a fool. This is problematic. For this exact same question - "What is this?" - is asked by another son. The wise son. How can the same three words connote both foolishness and wisdom?

    Imagine a different schoolboy in the cabin of that 747. He says to the pilot "What an incredible array of buttons, levers and switches. It would be wonderful if you would tell me a little of what they all do..."

    The wise son asks "What is this," meaning "What are these amazing buttons levers and switches by which we can affect ourselves and the world along with us?" He is asking his father to explain to him, as much as possible, the laws, the statutes and the commandments of the Torah. When the foolish son says "What is this," by singling out one mitzvah, he isn't impressing anyone with his knowledge, he is merely revealing his ignorance.

    His question reveals that there's no one behind the control column. It's just the autopilot speaking.

    Devarim 6:20; Rabbi Shimon Schwab in Maayan Beit Hashoeva as heard from Rabbi C.Z. Senter


    Yirmiyahu 46:13 - 28



    Much attention is given in the Torah to the ten plagues and to Egypt's downfall. We are not rejoicing at our enemies' ruin. Rather, this is part of Israel's education: We had to learn that even the great super-power, Egypt, could fall. Each plague demonstrated how the mighty empire was like putty in G-d's hands.

    This was not the last time Egypt would suffer devastation. The Prophet Yirmiyahu foretells Egypt's fall to Babylon. Her armies will turn and flee from the invaders who will appear more numerous than locusts; they will cut her down like so many axes reducing a forest to nothingness.

    Egypt gives way to Babylonia, and Babylonia later falls to Medio-Persia. All are transient. They rise to the greatest of heights, but disappear without a trace when G-d so decrees.

    Israel, however, will never be wiped out. We live on to fulfill our eternal mission as the Chosen People.

    There is no human super-power for us to put our trust in. The higher they rise, the bigger their fall.

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    One of the first Jewish settlements in the country, Zichron Yaakov was established by Baron Edmond de Rothschild and named in honor of his father Yaakov (James). It is the home of "Carmel" and other wineries, where the grapes that grow in the vicinity produce the wine sold throughout the country and the world. Its altitude, proximity to the coast and natural beauty has made it a popular vacation area.

    The population of Zichron Yaakov is a combination of veteran settlers and new immigrants. There is a sizeable religious community with a wide range of educational institutions, including Yeshivat Ohr Yaakov that was established by Ohr Somayach and attracts English-speaking students from all over the world.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Eli Ballon

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