Torah Weekly

For the week ending 28 January 2023 / 6 Shevat 5783

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’s going to bring one more plague, the death of the firstborn, 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 doorposts, and its roasted meat eaten. The blood on the doorpost will be a sign that their homes will be passed-over when G-d 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 G-d's commands, and the Jewish People fulfill them flawlessly. G-d sends the final plague, killing the firstborn, 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 firstborn son) and tefillin.

·Pesachim 68a


Escape From Egypt

“Rise up and go from among my people” (12:31)

When I was young, there was one phone in the entrance of our house on a little table, and a chair to sit down on to ‘make a call.’ Now, anyone without a phone in his pocket is considered a little pretentious or a little weird. Speaking "in person" could also mean a Zoom or a Skype face-to-face. And nobody writes anymore — people just text, spelling mistakes and all.

As fast as life has become, so have its spiritual challenges. A couple of decades ago, if someone wanted to do something wrong, he’d have to travel to the seedy side of town, risk being seen by a friend or a teacher, going into a shop and confessing his low desires to the person behind the counter. Nowadays, people don’t need to “prepare” to do something wrong. As soon as the negative impulse strikes — bingo, the transgression is right there at your fingertips, quite literally.

How does one fight such a battle?

It is fought by using the enemies’ weapons. The media brainwashes us with the culture of consumption, of instant gratification: Olam Hazeh. We need to “dry-clean” our brains with images of deferred gratification.

The Chafetz Chaim writes in Nidchei Yisrael, Chapter 26:

“When someone overcomes the yetzer hara (negative drive) for arayot, for immorality, his head becomes encircled with a light from Heaven — a halo. We can’t see it but in the time of Chazal that aura was visible. The Chafetz Chaim continues, “Someone who overcomes his yetzer, especially today, merits that not only that he, but all his descendants until the end of time, will be blessed with the virtue of his courageousness and his strength of character, and their nature will lead them to do what is hatov v’hayasha — “what is good and just.”

Think about that! Burn that image into your consciousness.

Please remember, if you ever have an impulse to do something improper, that standing behind you are your children, who you want to become righteous members of the Jewish People. Remember what the Chafetz Chaim promises: One moment can save your children. And that’s not all.

Standing behind your children are their children, and behind them as far as your eye can see are the exponentially increasing number of your descendants. There are hundreds and thousands of them, all watching you, holding their breath while waiting to see what you will do. To see whether you will succumb or if you will elevate those thousands of lives and your name for all eternity — through a moment’s self-control.

The Exodus from Egypt was not just a physical escape, but a spiritual escape for all of time. Burned into our genes was the dormant greatness to rise above the moment and achieve spiritual greatness for ourselves and all of our progeny for all of time.

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