of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Bo, 3 Shvat 5774/Jan. 4
Torah: Exodus 10:1-13:16; Haftorah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
(about another downthrow of Egypt by G-d, eight centuries later)
Bo is the 3rd Reading out of 11 in Exodus
and it contains 6149 letters, in 1655 words, in
Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16) opens with
the plagues of locusts and darkness. Then, Moshe warned Pharaoh
of the last plague, the death of the firstborn. G-d commanded
the Jews to designate a lamb as a pascal offering which would
be slaughtered and its blood put on the doorpost, a sign so
that in that Jewish home, no Jewish firstborn would be harmed.
G-d commanded that Jews not do labor on the first and last days
of the holiday, to eat matzahs, and not to own any leavening.
The Jews did as they were commanded, and the night of Passover,
the non-Jewish male and animal firstborns were killed. The Egyptians
sent the Jews away, bestowing upon them many riches. They hurried
the Jews so much so that the Jews' dough did not have time to
rise and remained unleavened matzahs. Next are listed
a few of the Passover laws for future generations. Also mentioned
are laws of consecrating firstborn Jewish males and animals,
and the mitzvah of tefillin.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
At the beginning of this weeks Torah portion,
G-d tells Moshe to warn Pharaoh about the 8th plague, locusts:
And G-d said to Moses, Come to Pharaoh
G-ds choice of the word, come (which is also
the name of the portion, Bo) is a peculiar one. Shouldnt
G-d instruct Moshe to go to Pharaoh?
The Zohar (v2:34a) suggests a simple way to understand this.
Moshe was to enter into Pharaohs inner chamber, to challenge
him at his most powerful level. G-d is telling Moshe: Whenever
you go into a difficult situation, you are not alone. Come, G-d
is saying, with Me.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe looks at this idea from another angle.
In the previous portion, Vaeira, the Jewish people are still
under the control of the Egyptians, and in next weeks portion
we find them after the exodus. This weeks portion is the
turning point from exile to freedomit is the portion of
the redemption of the Jewish people. The unique language of the
opening verseG-ds use of come instead
of gois connected to this theme of redemption.
It is possible that we can fulfill the commandment to study Torah
in the best way, by fixing set times to study and carving out
time from a busy schedule, and yet something is lacking. Even
though we go to the learning and interact with it
proactively, nevertheless, the Torah study itself is does not
effect us. We are getting the information, but we are not getting
it! The Torah we are studying and the self that is studying it
remain two separate things.
This is why the Torah uses the word come. To change
the nature of the game, to find redemption, we must fully come
to the study; we must allow the content of the material that is
being studied to enter our inner selves. The subject matter needs
to fill us so that we are completely united with itintellectually
and emotionally. This approach is not something that concerns
Torah study only. Rather, the aspiration of all our spiritual
work is to sincerely connect to G-d, through Torah study and observing
the commandments, so that we are attached from our most inner
selvesthe one serving to the service and the One being served.
Naming the redemption portion after this word, Bo,
teaches us that both in our personal lives and to bring the final
redemption for the Jewish people and the world as a whole, it
is only through a total involvement on this level of comingwhere
there is a union of the person with his purposethat we can
bring true and complete redemption.
There is a short story told about the Lubavitcher Rebbe where
he illustrates this point. In the dynamic community that a rebbe
and his chassidim (followers) create, there are always a few select
people, who might be called family friends, who show an extra
level of concern for the Rebbes welfare. Chabad-Lubavitch
was no exception, and so at one juncture these individuals felt
it was important to suggest that the Rebbe take a vacation. It
was so radical an idea for the Rebbe, who would sometimes be on
call for over 24 hours consecutively, that they did not want to
make the suggestion themselves. So they asked one of the more
well-known and respected chassidim, Rabbi Nissan Neminov, to broach
the topic with the Rebbe.
The Rebbe declined to accept the proposition. However, Rabbi
Neminov was not so easily dissuaded. In the annals of the
lives of the Lubavitch Rebbes, he put forward, we
find that the rebbes did go out on rest trips, including the Rabbi
Rayatz (the Rebbes father-in-law), whom the Rebbe often
mentions and follows.
The Rebbe ended the discussion by saying the following: In
previous generations, the rebbes were able to take a break because
their chassidim sat and studied Torah. But today the situation
is reversed. The chassidim are the ones who go on vacation, and
so I am the one who has to sit and learn.
The manner in which we enter into our Torah study, or not, is
not just a personal matter; our future depends on it.
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
(for a free weekly email subscription,
For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading,
see the archive.
week's story from Yerachmiel Tilles, managing editor of ascentofsafed.com
the Kabbalah Commentaries on the Chumash ("5
Books of Moses")
century - "RambaN"
- Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman
century - "Bachya"
- Rabbi Bachya ben Asher
century - "Alsheich"
- Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat
century - "Shelah"
- Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz
century - "Ohr
HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar
a sample for this week:
"Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart
and the heart of his advisors, so that I will be able
to demonstrate these miraculous signs within them."
The effect of the plagues never penetrated inside of
him. Now, however, G-d would display miracles which would
result also in the previous ones registering bam,
Hardening of the heart of his servants, was for the purpose
of teaching Israel the lesson of what befalls hardened
sinners, as outlined in Tzefaniah 3:6-8. The Jewish people,
though they had known G-d, had to learn that the same
G-d who is the source of mercy, is also the source of
justice. Sometimes, when one experiences what one believes
to be G-d's goodness, one assumes that this is an expression
of approval of one's conduct. The Egyptians who had brought
their livestock and slaves into safety, did not realize
that they were being saved merely to enable G-d to prepare
an even bigger disaster for them.
The righteous know that when they experience hardships,
this is merely a facet of G-d's mercy. The wicked delude
themselves that when they experience ease and comfort
that this is their ultimate destiny, forgetting that it
may be only a prelude to G-d's justice. Saving the unripe
crops made the Egyptians susceptible to the plague of
locust. What Pharaoh thought was relief was merely a preparation
for the next round of retribution.
Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech,
the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated
and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)
For the rest of "The Masters of Kabbala and Chumash"
on this Weekly Reading;
and on all the other
THE SAGES OF TSFAT AND GALILEE ON KabbalaOnline.org
for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary
Kabbalists, and more,
click to Bo
of the Jewish Leap Year
From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz
The Shelah teaches that whereas the gentile nations arrange their
calendar according to the orbit of the sun, the Jewish people
count according to the orbit of the moon.
When G-d told the moon to diminish itself, the moon was not placated
until told that Israel would use it for its calendar calculations
and also promised that the righteous would bear its name.
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