This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Bo is being sponsored by Ayton and Ayelet Lefkowitz of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas Ayton’s Grandmothers: Chana Michla bas Zeev Yitzchak and Miriam bas Avraham and his Grandfather Klonimus Yechezkel ben Yehuda. To Mishpochat Lefkowitz, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshat Bo is the one which, for me, annually relates to that nutty parody, composed by Guess Who, of a crazy tune which played back “in the Old Country” a few decades ago, “Does Your Korbon Pesach Lose It’s Flavor Tied to the Bedpost Overnight?” (Actually, the real title to the song was “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?”) Here’s hoping that readers of this Parshat HaShevua will click on the above YouTube link for a bit of levity.
Just a note here for historical perspective: from the point where Moshe experienced the revelation of the Burning Bush on the 15th of Nissan in the year 2447, to Moshe’s first approach to Pharaoh, through the ten plagues (the asseret makot), to the Jews’ liberation from the Egyptian slavery and oppression: there spanned exactly one year.
Over the years, this author has opened with this nutty parody because it cuts right to the chase, to the very heart of our Parshat. The lamb was seen by the Mitzriyim as one of their myriads of “gods”. Therefore, Hashem mandated the Mitzvot of taking the Korbon Pesach, publicly, slaughtering it and applying the da’am on Jewish doorposts. The going up from Mitzrayim (Egypt) to “…a land flowing with milk and honey …” — the Yetziyat Mitzrayim is as relevant to the National entity (B’nai Yisrael) today, as it was then, as it relates to emunah (belief in) and yirat (fear of) Hashem.
On the 14th of Nissan, 2448, in the afternoon, the Jews took the lamb; the Korban Pesach, which they had each tied to their proverbial bedpost on 10 Nissan, shechted (slaughtered) it, applied some of its blood to their doorposts and hastily ate it, roasted over fire with Matzot and bitter herbs with their loins girded and with shoes on their feet and staff at hand, on the evening which began the 15th of Nissan. That night began the final mako, the plague of the Egyptian first-born. The B’nei Yisrael left Egypt in the morning of the 15th of Nissan.
Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer L’lmod U’lamed (page 72) begins a vort on our Parshat:
Hashem was willing to save the Jews from their Egyptian captivity. But were the Jews ready to accept Hashem as their G’d? How would Hashem know, for man has Free Will with respect to fear of G’d. How could Hashem be sure of the Jews’ loyalty?
There was really only one way to be sure. If the Jews would offer to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of Hashem’s word, they would be worthy of His assistance. It was for that reason that Hashem asked them to prepare the Korban Pesach, the Pascal Lamb, publicly.
With B’nei Yisrael chomping at the bit for the redemption, for freedom from Mitzri bondage, Hashem directs them to take the Korban Pesach, and to perform Bris Milah on all males. Hashem commanded that the Korban Pesach must not be eaten by anyone who is uncircumcised. Indeed, taking the Pascal Lamb and slaughtering it publicly, in front of the Mitzriyim, and performing Bris Milah on Jewish males provided justification, validation of the worthiness of the Jews for Hashem’s liberation of them from bondage and for Jewish nationhood.
The Sapirstein Edition Chumash ( page 114-116) renders Sefer Shemos, Perek 12, posukim 12-13 and follows with Rashi’s comments and footnotes:
“And I shall pass through Egypt on this night [15 Nissan], and I shall strike every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from man to animal… I shall execute judgement — I, Hashem. The blood will be a sign for you upon the houses where you are; and I will see the blood and skip over you… when I strike in the land of Egypt.”
“The blood will be a sign for you” — It will be a sign “for you,” but not a sign for others — From here we can see that they only put the blood on the inside. It was “for you alone in that it was not visible to one standing outside the house.”
And I will see the blood — All is revealed before Him. “I will focus MY attention to see that you are busying yourselves with My commandment regarding placing the blood on the door frame and because of this I will skip over you when I inflict the plague upon the Egyptians.”
“And I will see the blood” — …This verse implies that Hashem will take into consideration the merit of their fulfilling His commandment. It does not speak of actually seeing the blood. (cited from Maskil L’David)
Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her sefer “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos (pages 29-30) relates a citing from the Navi Yechezchel (Sefer Yechezchel, perek 16, posukim 6-7 regarding Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 12, posuk 6):
“I have passed by you and I saw you wallowing in your bloods and I said to you ‘By your bloods you shall live.’ …. and you [were] naked and unclothed.”
Our sages (citing Yalkut Shimoni, Shemos, page 195) explain that “unclothed” means stripped of Mitzvot. Hashem initially determined that Am Yisrael was unworthy of being redeemed. Therefore, he “clothed” them, enabling them to earn the merit to live through the performance of the two Mitzvot. Note that the word “blood” in this posuk is actually plural “bloods”, referring to two Mitzvot that involve blood…. Korban Pesach (the Passover Offering) and Bris Milah (circumcision): B’nei Yisrael’s implementation of these two “bloods” was the combined accomplishment that gave them life and sanctioned their salvation. Fittingly these verses from Yechezchel are recited at both the Pesach Seder and at a Bris Milah.
The Targum Yonatan… specifies [Commentary on Sefer Shemos Perek 12, posuk 13] that since circumcision was a requirement for males to participate in the Korban Pesach, both the blood of the korban Pesach and the blood from the Bris Milah were used in that fateful night. Further, regarding the placement of both bloods on the doorposts,
Moshe told them (Sefer Shemos Perek 12, posuk 24) “Ushmartem et hadavar bazeh lechok lecha ulevanecha ad olam” (“You shall observe this matter as a statute for you and for your children forever”). From this…, we see that these Mitzvot have eternal significance.
But there was a third Mitzvah to the Yetziyat Mitzrayim. In the Sefer “Inspiration and Insight” — Discourses on the Weekly Parashah by the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, Shlita, Z”l, Rav Segal (page 113) renders translation of Sefer Shemos, Perek 12, posuk 39, as well as Rashi’s comments and Yirmiyahu Perek 2, posuk 2:
“They baked unleavened bread with the dough that they had taken with them from Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not tarry there; nor had they prepared for themselves any provisions for the way. (Sefer Shemos, Perek 12, posuk 39)
This tells the praise of the Israelites, that they did not say “How can we go out to the desert without provisions?!”
Rather, they had faith and went. It is regarding this that the prophet states (Yirmiyahu Perek 2, posuk 2), “[So said Hashem:] I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in a wilderness in an unsown land.” What reward is stated afterward? “Israel is sanctified before Hashem, the choicest of His crop” (Rashi ibid.).
Rav Segal then writes (page 113):
…They became a nation whose pure unquestioning faith earned them their Creator’s praise. More than one million men, women and children headed for the Wilderness without provisions, not knowing how they would survive. They followed Hashem’s command in the way of a young child who unquestioningly accompanies his father on his travels.
The child doesn’t worry how he will survive, for he has complete faith in his father’s judgement. Such was the pure faith of the Jewish nation…
Rebbetzin Smiles writes in the same vein, in her sefer “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos, (pages 33-34), by making reference to the term “mesirus nefesh” which is translated as “giving over the soul.” She writes citing a Shabbos HaGadol drosh in 1900 by Rabbi Pinchas Friedman:
Giving over your soul to something means making a statement of total committment. Serving Hashem with “mesirus nefesh” means coming to the deep realization that serving Hashem is all that matters to us. It matters more than life, and from that realization stems the act of serving Hashem “bechol nafshecha” (with all of your soul) (Sefer Devarim, Perek 6, posuk 5) — even if it means giving up that life… We also realize that the service of Hashem matters more than the selfish aspects of our lives.
So what is the sequel today to the “two bloods”? The Pesach Seder is accessible to all, whether at one’s home, with friends or even in the local Chabad House, and Bris Milah is routinely done on all Jewish males on the eighth day (or if complications of birth occur — as soon as the baby’s health permits)?
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah” on our Parshat Bo (pages 161-162, 166, 168-169) provides some possible answers. Firstly, Rav Pliskin cites, renders and comments quoting The Ramban on Sefer Sh’mos Perek 10, posukim 16-17 regarding the suffering from the plague of locusts:
“Pharaoh called to Moshe and Aharon and said to them: ‘Now I beseech you, forgive my sin only this once, and pray to the Almighty that He may only take away this death.'” (Sefer Sh’mos Perek 10, posukim 16-17)
The Ramban comments…: Pharaoh realized that it was only Moshe who could intercede on his behalf with The Almighty. For this reason the first part of the verse [posuk 17] is written in the singular. But Pharaoh spoke derech mussar (in a polite and tactful manner)… and asked both Moshe and Aharon to pray for him and for this reason the latter half of the verse is written in the plural.
Rabbi Zissel of Kelm [a pillar of the mussar movement]… cited this… Ramban (Chochmah Umussar, vol. 1, page 456) and added that…. we should learn from Pharaoh. …He needed a favor from Moshe, and Aharon was not able to act on his behalf, he still spoke in front of Aharon in a manner that would not imply any slight to Aharon’s honor.
This sensitivity should be our guide in dealing with other people.
If Pharaoh, the perpetrator of the enslavement and persecution of Am Yisrael, could make his requests in such a polite and tactful way to seek relief from Hashem’s plague, so much more so must one Jew, or one sector of Jews, speak to another in a polite and tactful way, free of coercion, invective or polarization, derisive name-calling or actions, so as to not slight the other’s honor.
Rav Pliskin then makes a point by rendering Sefer Sh’mos Perek 12, posuk 28 citing a comment by Rashi on the posuk:
When you want to have a positive influence on others make certain to model that behavior yourself.
“And the Children of Israel went and did as The Almighty commanded Moshe and Aharon, so they did.” (Sefer Sh’mos Perek 12, posuk 28)
Rashi comments…, “so they did” refers to Moshe and Aharon. They also did as The Almighty commanded about the Paschal lamb [the Korban Pesach]. The Torah tells us this as a lesson to anyone who wants to have a positive influence on others. It is not enough just to tell others to do good deeds. Your own behavior should serve as a
model for them to follow. (Hagigai Osher)
Action is much more difficult than words. The best way to influence others is to be the type of person you wish others to be.
Rav Pliskin seems, to this author, to be conveying that negative actions, such as coercion or derisiveness by even a few of one sector toward those of other sectors or by the government toward any and all sectors of Am Yisrael, or by the injustice of mental or physical torture of Jews during interrogation without proof of a crime committed, achieves the very opposite of presenting a positive influence on others. Such actions make for disunity, divisiveness, polarization and downright hatred within Am Yisrael. It seems to this author that those who claim to hold themselves out as closest to Almighty, or those who proclaim themselves as purveyors of “justice” and law in a “democracy” must, therefore, hold themselves to a higher standard, a higher calling. In short, that now somewhat famous “sports-entertainment” quote makes the point: “To talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.”
So how do we define “mesirus nefesh” (giving over the soul) today, in a context of B’nei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael? Is it making aliyah? Is it commitment to selfless kindness L’Shem Shemayim and V’ahavtah L’rei’echa Kamocha toward one’s fellow Jews, regardless of sector? Is it connecting with, and possessing Eretz Yisrael, just as our ancestors “followed Hashem’s command” into the desert with “complete faith in their Father’s judgement”? Is it inserting one’s own body, at risk of billy club beating or arrest, to prevent further expulsions of Jews from Our Land? Is it one chayal (soldier) acting to protect his fellows by making sure that a murderous terrorist is permanently eliminated? Or, is it all of the above and more? Is it even possibly the painless right of ALL Israelis to vote, whether in national or local elections — 1 Jew = 1 vote, in unity, with ahavat chinom, FOR Jewish life, even against foreign attempts to subvert an election or cause surrender to appeasement, or political/governmental/military cruelty to the righteous, with equivocation toward resultant bloody terror?
Rav Pliskin renders Sefer Sh’mos. Perek 13, posuk 5 and cites The Chofetz Chayim regarding B’nei Yisrael, Torah and Eretz Yisrael:
“…To give you a land flowing with milk and honey, and you shall do this service.” (Sefer Sh’mos. Perek 13, posuk 5)
The Chofetz Chayim commented on this verse…. The Torah and the Land of Israel are one unit. Their relationship is as the relationship between the body and soul. A soul cannot exist alone in this world. The body alone is just dust from the earth. It needs the soul to give it life. The soul of the Jewish people is the sacred Torah. The body is the Land of Israel… The Land of Israel without the Torah, however, is like a body without a soul. It is just a piece of land. Only when both exist together is there a complete unit.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.