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 comemmorate 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.
For this author, Parshat Bo annually relates to that nutty parody, composed by Guess Who, of a crazy tune which got a lot of radio play 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 subscribers to this Parshat HaShevua, especially newer subscribers will click on the above YouTube link for a bit of levity:
“And Hashem said to Moshe and Aaron in the land of Egypt [Mitzrayim], saying, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel, saying: On the tenth of this month [Nissan] they shall take for themselves — each man — a lamb/kid for a father’s house, a lamb/kid for each household. But if the household will be too small for the lamb, then he and his neighbor who is near his home shall take according to the number of people; everyone in proportion to his eating, shall you be counted for the lamb/kid. A perfect lamb/kid a male, within its first year…for you: from the sheep or from the goats… It shall be unto you for safekeeping until the fourteenth day of this month.'” (The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary” renders to English Sefer Shemos, Perek 12, posukim 1, 3–6)
Over the years, this author’s nutty parody has cut 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), enroute to their ultimate goal “…a land flowing with milk and honey …” — the Yetziyat Mitzrayim is as relevant to the National entity (B’nei Yisrael) today, as it was then, as it relates to emunah (belief in) and yirat (fear of) Hashem.
Moshe issues his warning to Pharaoh regarding the Plague of the Newborn (Mako HaBechorot), which Torah records:
“Moshe said, ‘So said Hashem, At about midnight I shall go out in the midst of Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die from the firstborn of Pharaoh… to the firstborn of the maidservant…'” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 11, posukim 4-5, as rendered to English both in the Artscroll Stone Chumash and in Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s Sefer “Growth Through Torah”, pages 162-163)
On Pesach night, the night which precedes the day of the Jews’ liberation from the slavery and oppression of Pharaoh and the Mitzriyim, having shechted (slaughtered) the Korbon Pesach, the Jews applied the da’am (the blood of the Korbon Pesach) to their doorposts. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides context in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text,” Sefer Shemot. page 52:
Hashem commands the Jews to retreat to their homes on the night before the Yetziyot Mitzrayim [the liberation of the Jews from Egypt]. There, in extended family groups, they are to consume the Korbon Pesach (the Pesach offering). (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posukim 3-11)
Rabbi Goldin now continues to analyze Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posukim 3-4 and 11 (ibid, pages 90-92 and 95-96):
A careful reading of the text reveals that the Korbon Pesach develops in three stages, …mirroring the three fundamental foundations upon which society in Judaism will rest.
1/ “A lamb for each father’s house, a lamb for the household.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posuk 3)
The first and foremost pillar of society in Judaism is the family unit. Hashem deliberately refrains from marking the birth of the nation of Jews with constitutional conventions, mass rallies, or declarations of independence. Each Jew is, instead, commanded to return to the privacy of his home where he is to participate in the family meal that is the Korbon Pesach.
By insisting upon a retreat to one’s home, Hashem delivers a simple, yet powerful message: As you prepare to begin your historic journey, stop and mark this evening within the societal unit that will be most critical to your success. …Your survival will depend upon the health of the family. If the family is strong, if the home fulfills its educational role, your people will be strong and your nation will endure.
Not only the nuclear family, but the extended family, as well, will enrich the Jews’ experience across the centuries. Hashem… insists, that the Paschal Lamb shall be “for each father’s home” as well as “for the household.”
2/ “And if the household shall be too small for the lamb, then he and his neighbor who is near his home shall take…” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posuk 4) Moving beyond the family unit, the text arrives at the second foundation of society in Judaism: the community.
The family unit, as important as it is, cannot operate in a vacuum. Each household will be required, at times, to reach beyond its walls, either to ask for, or to offer assistance and support…. If neighbors work together, creating communal institutions of mutual support, the nation will survive and thrive.
3/ “Each man according to his ability to eat shall be counted for the lamb.” (Rabbi Goldin provides an additional rendering to English of the rest of Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posuk 4) Finally, the Torah reminds us that no individual can escape the obligations raised by the third societal foundation, personal responsibility.
Finally, we consider the strikingly strange instruction “And so shall you consume [the Korbon Pesach]: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand.” Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Shemot, Perek 12, posuk 11)
Why must the Jews eat the Korbon Pesach already prepared for the journey which will only begin on the morrow? Certainly, there will be time to dress appropriately and pick up staffs after the ritual is concluded. Is this detail simply a demonstration of ritualized haste, or is there a deeper lesson to be learned?
…. Somehow, we have to learn to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges today. In generation after generation, in society after society, the descendants of the Jews [who were liberated from Egypt] will confront ever-changing circumstances and challenges. …A people gather in groups to eat a family meal while fully prepared for a journey that will begin on the morrow. From that time on, that people’s ability to determine and prepare for changes before they emerge full-blown will be central to their success and survival.
Rabbi Goldin concludes with a story which typified the point made in the previous paragraph, and poses questions for our times (ibid, page 97):
The story is told of the Jew who was an optician who lived in Berlin in the 1930s. Noting the events taking place around him, he decides to emigrate to Israel. To inform his patients of his departure, he places a sign outside his office: “For all of you who are nearsighted, there is a doctor around the corner. For all of you who are farsighted, follow me.”
While the story is poignant, it is of course simplistic. How can we judge, from the safety of our own environment, the issues that must have confronted European Jews in the years leading up to World War ll? Would we have believed, had we been there, that… Germany, representing the height of civilization at the time, could possibly commit the unspeakable atrocities that were to come?
We must also ask, are we any better equipped today? Would we see the danger signs looming on the horizon… in time to make a difference? Are some of the signs already appearing? Are we sensitive to not only to the open physical threats against us, but also to the subliminal philosophical dangers which so often lie beneath our radar screen?
We would do well to keep the image of the first Pesach table before us… The lessons learned around it continue to inform our journey to this day.
Just to note: The five volumes of Rabbi Goldin’s sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” show a copyright date of 2008/5769. Rabbi Goldin had no way of knowing the current state of affairs in the United States and through the world outside of Israel. He had no way of knowing of the Communist Chinese corona pandemic, the discrimination against Jews and religious services in many states and localities, nor the fiasco of the 2020 United States Presidential elections and those latter day Dasans and Avirams who have made false accusations against a sitting President for four years and may well have been among the perpetrators of attempts to steal an election and possible resulting blow-back against Jews by as many as 74,000,000 gentile voters. As of this writing, a whole lot to think about and consider — especially for American Jews.
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 and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.