Torah Weekly

For the week ending 16 January 2016 / 6 Shevat 5776

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 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 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 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 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.



“…And so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son… that you know that I am G-d.” (10:2)

It seems that Maxwell House may have made an unwitting contribution to the perpetuation of Judaism.

How many Maxwell House Haggadot have graced the Seder tables of families for whom the Seder is all that is left of their Judaism?

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 85a) teaches that “Anyone who is a talmid chacham, and both his son and his son’s son are talmidei chachamim, the Torah will never depart from his progeny.” The medieval commentaries of the Tosefot explain that this promise refers only where they all see each other and are able to speak and converse together. The Chida and the Nachal Kadmonim say that this is the meaning of the above verse in this week’s Torah portion: When is it that you will know that “I am G-d”? When you “relate in the ears of you son and your son’s son”. When all three see and communicate with each other, then the train of transmission becomes immutable.

And even amongst Jews who are far from being talmidei chachamim, that chain of generations is often a last holdout against total Jewish oblivion.

At a typical Pesach Seder there could be at least three generations at the table: a grandfather, a father, and a son. Let's say that the average gap between the generations is 30 years. So a typical Seder represents a span of 60 years of Jewish history: 30 years between the grandfather and the father, and a further 30 years between the father and the son. However, the grandfather sitting at our table was a grandson at his grandfather's Seder. And similarly, our grandson will be a grandfather at his grandson's Seder. So really, there aren’t three generations represented at the table, but seven.

So our Seder could span as much as 7 x 30 = 210 years.

If you divide 210 years into the time elapsed since the first Seder (approx. 3,300 years ago), you come out with an amazing number:

3,300 ÷ 210 = 15.714285

In other words, we just shrank the vast expanse of 3,300 years of history into just 16 Sedarim. That's all that separates us from the experience of leaving Egypt — 16 Sedarim.

"And you shall tell your son on that day... (13:18)"

The whole of Judaism is founded on 16 fathers passing on the experience of the Exodus to 16 sons, witnessed by those 7 generations that each Seder spans.

Tradition is 16 Sedarim long.

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