Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5776 2016 – Act Now!

jumphighWhen giving the Bnei Israel their final instruction before they were to leave Egypt, Hashem says that they should eat the Pascal Lamb: וְכָכָה תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ מָתְנֵיכֶם חֲגֻרִים נַעֲלֵיכֶם בְּרַגְלֵיכֶם וּמַקֶּלְכֶם בְּיֶדְכֶם, “So shall you eat it, your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand…”. (Ex. 12,11)

Obviously, Hashem wanted the people to be ready as soon as they were given the word that they must leave Egypt. The important message here is that when you know you have a task before you, do not procrastinate but be prepared. Do not delay and feel there is plenty of time. No, there is not plenty of time. What you know you have to do later, do it as soon as you are able.

It is very disturbing, and sometimes disrespectful, for people to come late for an appointment. It is certainly improper to come late to Shul. It is not advisable for students to delay doing homework or workers to leave for later what they know must be done.

I don’t know if it is still among the stories that children read in school but I remember when I was in the early grades we read a story about a race between the Tortoise and the Hare. In the middle of the race the hare who was obviously leading stopped to rest and the turtle who kept plugging away actually won the race. The point is, do what you have to do and rest later.


Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5775 2015 – Who’s leaving Egypt?

When Pharaoh had enough of the plagues he told Moshe he can take the people out of Egypt to go worship Hashem as he requested. He then asked, מִי וָמִי הַהֹלְכִים, “…which ones are going?” He was surprised at the answer he got. Moshe replied, בִּנְעָרֵינוּ וּבִזְקֵנֵינוּ נֵלֵךְ, “With our youngsters and with our elders we will go…”. (Ex. 10,8-9)

Pharaoh’s surprise was because in his understanding it is only the elders who worship their gods. The youngsters have no part in their religion. Moshe informed Pharaoh that the youngsters are an integral part of our religion. When a child can utter words the child is taught to recite the Shema. When he gets a little older he is taught to read and to pray. He is given a Jewish education.

When the children are Bar or Bat Mitzvah they assume full responsibilities of our faith. It is a religion for all ages. In a true Jewish home the training starts as soon as the child can speak. We have a special Mitzvah for parents of Chinuch – training or education. You cannot expect a child who grows up to suddenly cast upon it the obligations of Mitzvot without previous training. It is also noteworthy that in Judaism the obligation to learn never ends.

This was all strange to Pharaoh and he could not understand why Moshe insisted that even the children be allowed to go out of Egypt to worship Hashem.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5774 2014

Before leaving Egypt Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the Israelites:

וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ אִישׁ מֵאֵת רֵעֵהוּ “…let each man request of his neighbor…silver vessels and gold vessels.” (Ex. 11,2) It is interesting that non-Jewish translations of this Biblical verse translate the word וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ as borrow. Hence many people ask the question, “How could the Jews borrow vessels when they never had intention to return them?”

The Jewish Biblical translations explain the word as “request” or “ask”. Actually the Hebrew word can be interpreted in both ways. The Jewish translation in this instance, however, is more accurate because the Israelites would never have been told by Hashem to borrow with the intention not to return the items.

In the Book of Psalms the word שאל appears in a passage we recite during the month of Elul. אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת יְקֹוָק, “One thing have I asked of Hashem”. (Ps. 27,4) Here the word certainly does not mean borrow.

This emphasizes the fact that one cannot rely on translations but must go straight to the original Hebrew to get the true meaning.


Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5772 2012

There are two types of outstanding personalities. One is very popular among the average person. He has exceptional qualities that make him acceptable to the common person. He gets along with them and they enjoy his company. There is another type of personality that is more attracted to a higher class of person. He has traits and characteristics that appeal to people in a higher position or on a more intellectual level.

Moshe was the kind of leader that was able to deal with all kinds of people. The Torah says: GAM HA’ISH MOSHE GADOL ME’OD BE’ERETZ MITZRAYIM BE’ENEY AVDEY PHARO UVE’EYNEY HA’AM, “… moreover, the man Moshe was great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and in the eyes of the people.” (Ex. 11,3)

The Torah testifies that Moshe was appreciated and honored by all. He was held in high esteem among the servants of Pharaoh who were in effect his advisors and, at the same time, he was honored and respected by the average person in the land.

This was his greatness. He was able to deal with everyone at their own level. This makes a true leader, one who is not only acceptable to a particular class but one who is appreciated by all.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5771 2011

The Israelites in Egypt were told to slaughter the Pascal lamb the night they were to leave Egypt and to smear the blood on the doorposts of their homes: VELO YITEN HAMASHCHIT LAVO EL BATECHEM LINGOF, “…and He (Hashem) will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smote.” (Ex.12,23) This statement is very strange since the opening of this verse says: VE’AVAR HASHEM LINGOF, “Hashem will pass through to smite…”. This implies that He will not send a destroyer but will smite the Egyptian homes Himself. Why does the Torah say He will not permit the destroyer to smite the Israelite homes?

The Haggadah, which we recite at the Seder, also emphasizes that Hashem Himself will smite the Egyptians and not an angel, and not a Seraph, and not a Messenger.

The Gaon of Vilna gives a brilliant answer to this question. He says that some Israelites were destined to die a normal death that night and if they would die along with the first born then the Egyptians would claim that the plague has not only affected them but also the Israelites. Hence Hashem prevented the Angel of Death, or the destroyer, from acting that night.

There are many hidden meanings in the text of the Torah and it requires a special skill to be able to find them and not to look for contradictions in the Torah.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5770 2010

Pharaoh at long last agreed to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, although he stipulates that the cattle and the flock shall remain. Moshe, however, insists that: VEGAM MIKNENU YELECH EMANU, “And also our livestock will go with us…” (Ex. 10,26) After all the plagues visited on Egypt Pharaoh was ready to let the Israelites go, why did he make such a fuss and not allow the livestock to go? Moshe also, his entire effort was to free the Jewish people, why could he not leave without the livestock?

The persistence on both sides was extremely meaningful. Pharaoh finally recognized that Hashem was supreme, but he could not accept the belief that Hashem rules on material matters as well. He believed that Hashem was protecting the Israelites but He had no control over their possessions.

Moshe, on the other hand, stressed the Jewish belief that Hashem has control on everything, including the possessions and material aspects of the world. He thus insisted that the cattle go along with the people.

This is a basic difference between Jewish belief and many other religions. We believe that Hashem is the Master of the entire universe and everything in it.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 2009 5769 דבר תורה פרשת בא

Bnei Israel finally merited to be delivered from the Egyptian bondage. The ten plaques were visited upon the Egyptians and they begrudgingly permitted the Israelites to leave the land. We are told: VAYISA HA’AM ET BETZEKO…AL SHICHMAM, “And the people took their dough…upon their shoulders.” (Ex.12,34) We are informed a few verses later that they left with their flock and their herds and with very much cattle.

The Midrash Mechilta on this portion asks why they carried their food on their shoulders; why did they not put them on their animals. It answers that they loved observing the Mitzvah of leaving Egypt so much that they want do perform it with some physical act.

We all perform many Mitzvot daily. Unfortunately some are performed perfunctorily without sincere devotion. The lesson the Torah here, with the Midrashic explanation, stresses that when we do a Mitzvah it should be executed with full devotion and not merely as a form of habit.