Parshat Bo


First portion


That’s a weird way to address a king: respect and a fist in the mouth! Before the tenth plague, Moshe informs Pharaoh that all of his servants will be looking for Moshe begging him to stop the plague. Turns out, it was actually Pharaoh himself who, in the middle of the night, in pajamas, went door to door trying to find Moshe to beg that he and the Israelites should leave.

Moshe was very accurate and meticulous when speaking to Pharaoh. If so, why wasn’t he more accurate by proclaiming that indeed it would be Pharaoh himself who will be parading in his nightly attire seeking him?

Moshe acted properly in treating the king with respect and not hurting an authoritative figure. By pointing a finger at Pharaoh and telling him “this will happen to you” is a gross lack of respect.

RESPECT?!-EXCUSE ME Pharaoh was a RASHA! He tortured and enslaved the Jews; he ordered the execution of Jewish babies! You want to give this monster respect?! On the contrary, Pharaoh should be dragged around town and humiliated!!

However, the Torah is trying to teach us about respecting authority, any authority. There has to be respect for the leaders, teachers and parents. This is a very hard and foreign concept for us Americans to fathom, as we live in a democratic society where every time a politician slips, we scream “throw the bum out”!

The National Rifle Association has taken an unfathomable position after the Newtown tragedy, in which twenty six people, mostly children, were killed; they are in favor of guns. Truth be told, the NRA represents the epitome of democracy. The NRA was created as the result of the second amendment which permitted guns to be possessed. This was to ensure that no government will turn tyranny; hence there should be an armed militia accessible, just in case. Initially, this seems very appropriate. However, although there are plenty of positives to a democratic system, all of them are at the expense of the watering down of respect for authoritative figures.

The Torah wants to emphasize the importance of having respect for authority; a king, a president, no matter how much the late show hosts poke fun of them. They represent the people and they enforce order in society. G-d loves an orderly society, even at the expense of believing in Him.

• Again, G-d is mentioning that he has hardened Pharaoh’s heart, or as we have said previously, hardened the ability to withstand the impact of the Plagues. Therefore, giving him the freedom of choice, where his true cruel personality has been shown. One may think the storyline, so far, in the book of Shemot, has been the belief in G-d. However, there is an added dimension here, as evident by the constant focusing of ‘hardening the heart’ of Pharaoh, and that is the depth of how low he can go in his handling of fellow human beings.

• Even his advisors suggested to him to release the Israelites, but he refused. Unfortunately, they still followed his command. History often repeats itself; this is the first of many times where ‘they just followed orders’ from their evil leader. One cannot do that; opposition groups should have risen if they thought Pharaoh was wrong; grass roots should have begun. Apparently, it didn’t, and therefore the Egyptian nation is as responsible for their actions just as Pharaoh was.

• Moshe and Aharon threaten to bring another plague, locusts.

• Pharaoh’s response was to let just the men go, and leave the women and children. Moshe obviously refused, setting the stage for the locusts.

Second Portion

• Pharaoh runs to find Moshe to beg him to stop the plague, stating, “I have sinned to G-d”. Sounds sincere, no?! Ha! Only a short time later, Pharaoh returns to his stance of refusal to let them go.

• Moshe brought upon Egypt the next plague, darkness, through the command of G-d.

• Many of the Israelites who were not following in the way of G-d perished in this plague. The reason why G-d chose this particular plague is because He did not want the Egyptians to say, “We’re not the only ones being punished”. By the time the Egyptians arose from the darkness, those Jews were already buried.

Third Portion

• Pharaoh said to Moshe, “You can leave, but your flock and cattle shall remain”. Moshe retorted back, “We will leave with all we have”.

• G-d made it so that the Jews were able to take gold, silver, and clothing from the Egyptians. The Egyptians themselves honored the requests of the Israelites to “lend them” gold, silver etc.

Fourth Portion

• G-d informs Moshe of the last plague, death of the Egyptian firstborn children.

• G-d instructs Moshe and Aharon how to fulfill the first commandment of the Torah. G-d informs them starting with “This month, I will implement a calendar system”. The calendar is based on the moon and is regulated by the sun. The time span between one new moon and the next is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 ½ seconds. Since a month has to be composed of complete days, the months alternate between 29 and 30 days. So a 12-month year contains 354 days, as opposed to 365 days in a solar year. In order to make up the eleven day difference which, after many years, will cause a problem because Nissan, a spring month (Pesach has to be in the spring), will fall out in the winter. Therefore, the Torah instituted a leap year, which adds a 13th month (Adar ll) to the year, seven times every nineteen years. This will ensure that Pesach will fall out in the springtime each year.

• The Seder night of Pesach, which we still commemorate today, is a very powerful night because that was when G-d showed tremendous mercy on our ancestors many years ago. On that night, back then, we were instructed to perform the Pesach offering, which consists of roasting a lamb or sheep (these animals were sacred and were the Egyptian gods, by slaughtering them, it’s a slap in the face to the Egyptians). The blood from the offering was to be painted on the doorpost. While we were eating the Pesach offering in our homes, G-d skipped over our houses. Only the Egyptians were struck when He killed the firstborns.

• We are introduced in this portion as to how to perform our obligation on the holiday of Pesach.

Fifth Portion

Interestingly, the Israelites were commanded not leave their homes on the night of the death of the firstborns of the Egyptians, “or else the angel of death will smite you too.” One must ask, wasn’t it understood that G-d himself would kill the Egyptian firstborns? Still, the angel was specifically instructed to kill any Jews who left their homes. We learn an important lesson; one is not permitted to feel good in watching their enemy being tortured or killed. Although the Egyptians tortured the Jews, G-d still made sure not to let them see what was done to the Egyptians.

Sixth Portion

• Pharaoh ran out in his pajamas in the middle of the night to find Moshe and begged him to stop the plagues and to leave. He said the whole Jewish nation should leave.

• There were 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 60 who left Egypt.

• In their haste, they left while the bread did not finish baking. This bread is called matzoh.

• The Jews were in exile 210 years.

Seventh Portion

• We conclude the Parsha with two passages, one is about the firstborn and the other is teaching the future generations. As we got prepared to leave Egypt, we were in essence graduating to a “nation” status. The narrative is directing us from slave status to a bright future where, now, the father of the household has a say and influence, and will be able to pass down the tradition of the gift that was given by G-d – the Torah.

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon