Weekly Reading Insights:
Bo 5778


Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Bo, 4 Shvat 5778/Jan. 20

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 106 verses

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.


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)

This week's Torah portion, Bo, speaks about the last 3 plagues and the final freeing of the Jewish people from the Egyptian bondage. Mitzrayim, which means narrow places, is the Hebrew word for Egypt. The Jewish people leaving Mitzrayim is the model not just for the future redemption when G-d will take us out of this long, difficult and confusing exile but also the model for each and every time we have to break out of our own negative situations that control us.

This is the deeper meaning of the Passover offering, which was taking the physical manifestation of the god of the Egyptians, slaughtering and eating it. To be free we have to end our worship of the 'idols' of the secular society that surround us.

And why did they have to eat the offering 'in haste'? Because change does not come in comfort, only with focus and effort.

With haste is also how in the end Pharaoh chased out the Jewish people. We have to make a clean break with the past to be able to receive the future.

There are many other hidden instructions. The Lubavitcher Rebbe reveals one of them, pointing to our ability to lead. The verse says (12/11) "This is how you should eat the Pesach offering, your thighs belted, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand."

In general a person's life is divided into three parts, the person himself, i.e. his inner personal life, his ties to his immediate environment and his ties to the more distant world.
These three divisions are hinted at in the 3 details mentioned in the verse, thighs, shoes and staff.
You first have to achieve freedom on an inner level. This is hinted at by the word thighs since the thighs support the whole upper body, in particular the head that tops it off. The first transformation has to be with himself.

But a person has to know that just working on himself is not enough. We must also transform and elevate our surroundings, particularly what we come into contact with regularly, to also help them to come to completion. This is not just for their sake. We need it also to be able to thrive in our new freedom.

This is hinted at with the word shoes. Shoes allow us to touch what is outside of us, including the earth on which we stand. Not only do our shoes protect us from the thorns and rocks, snakes and scorpions, they allow us to open new paths and clear the way for others to walk, even without shoes. This is the next step in true spirituality, in going out of our personal exiles, to be careful to no longer be affected by our surroundings and to affect it for the good. To bring holiness, kedusha, into our surroundings.
But a person might also think this is enough. That if we do not come into regular contact with it, it is someone else's affair. We have no obligation.

This is what the words 'staff in your hands' teaches us. A staff is used to touch things we can not reach with our hands. This is a clear hint to the world farther away from us that we do not have an immediate connection to. We can and must also affect it, fixing it, elevating it, each person in the way appropriate for them. It could be signing a petition or making a phone call, advising another or joining a demonstration. A Jew and his staff. We were not created to ignore the world but to change it for the better.

This is the Passover offering that is teaching us our responsibility to make an impact where we can, not just on ourselves or what is immediately surrounding us. We have to also use our 'staff', to go to even the places where we can not easily reach with our hand. (from "Dvar Malchus")

A wealthy man flew in from California to New York just to meet with the Rebbe Rayatz (The Rebbe's father-in-law, whose yahrzeit is this Monday) to ask him advice for success in his business affairs. Afterwards the Rebbe asked him about his personal life and his children's education. The Rebbe advised him to change certain behaviors, to strengthen some areas he was weak in and said it would bring blessings on him. The person frowned and answered, it is unlikely to happen; it's not practical.

"I am surprised at you," the Rebbe responded. "For business advice you travel all the way from California to get my advice while we both know that I am not a businessman or the son of a businessman. But when it comes to Torah and the Commandments, which is my and my father's specialty, on this you say my advice is not practical?" (from "Sichos Hashavua")

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)
For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, 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

one sample:

Chasidic Masters
Like Frogs Jumping into Dough

By Binyomin Adilman

The frogs voluntarily went into the glowing hot ovens even though they were not commanded concerning the sanctification of G-d's name, nor were they promised any reward for being the agents of the plague. All the more so we, who this mitzvah is incumbent on us, are required to go to any necessary length to ensure the sanctification of G-d's name in the world.

To continue reading click here

For another taste of recommended Kabbalah articles on a variety of subjects,
click to the
our weekly Kabbalah magazine :


Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION