Thank you Rabbi Hackenbroch
Shabbat Shalom everyone.
My parasha, Bo, describes the last three plagues suffered by the Egyptians and ends with the drama of the Yetziat Mitzraim - the exodus from Egypt. The last three plagues were locusts, darkness and death of the firstborn. Before the final plague, Hashem commanded the Jews to prepare the Korban Pesach, the Pesach Offering, publicly. They had to obtain the lamb, lead it through the streets and then slaughter it. They were then required to smear its blood on their doorposts for everyone to see. This would have been very dangerous for the Jewish people as the lamb was considered a G-d to the Egyptians. But why did Hashem place the Jewish people in such danger?
Hashem did this because he was about to free them from Egyptian captivity and he wanted to know who was willing to risk their life for Him. By putting the blood on their doorposts, they showed their loyalty to Hashem publicly. It was only the houses with the blood on their doorposts that were spared from the terrible plague- death of
the firstborn. This has a connection to the mezuzah. We put the mezuzah on our doorpost as a sign that Hashem is always there at our door to protect us just like he did with the plagues. Also the mezuzah is a statement
to everyone that we are Jewish and proud of it as the Israelites did with the blood on their doorpost. This message is still relevant today. Despite the recent increase in attacks against Jews, this parasha is telling us to have faith and trust in Hashem.
This parasha also highlights the importance of education. As it says in the Book of Shemot, Chapter 12 Verses 25-27: “When you come to the land that Hashem will give you as He promised, you must also observe this service. And when your children will say to you ‘what is this service to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is the Passover service to
G-d. He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He plagued the Egyptians by killing their firstborns, and He saved our homes.” This shows that reciting the hagadah to children at our sedarim is an essential part of the observance of Pesach. It is important for us to relate the Pesach story to children in a way that captures their
interest. All the unusual foods and customs are intended to encourage questions which we are obliged to answer fully. This ensures that we are aware that we keep the mitzvot in recognition of the miracles that Hashem performed on our behalf in Egypt. Education is essential in keeping our Torah tradition alive.
Education is important at all levels. For example, in our shul, we are so fortunate to have the Sister Squads and now the newly formed Lomedet squad, which I attend on a regular basis. We learn about different aspects of how to be an observant Jewish woman in an inspiring way — from lighting Shabbat candles to making challah and hamantaschen. This has really brought Jewish mitzvot to life for me and I intend to continue my learning so that I can pass on these traditions.
What I find particularly interesting about Bo is that it contains the first commandment which the Jews received as a People. This deals with the blessing of the new moon.
My parasha states:
“החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה”
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months.
It shall be the first month of the year to you.” Unlike the Egyptians whose calendar followed the sun the Jewish calendar follows the moon. The famous Rabbi, the Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Betzalel, who lived from about 1525 to 1609, commented that this commandment was more than just a law about counting months but
was rather a whole new way of life in contrast to that of the Egyptians.
In the Megillah of Kohelet, written by King Solomon, there is a famous saying which is used by Jews and Non-Jews alike which goes as follows:
“ואין כל-חדש תחת השמש”
“And there is nothing new under the sun.”
What does this really mean?
The sun sees everything. It is a constant. The moon however is forever changing. The Zohar (Jewish Book of Mysticism) compares the Jewish people to the moon. As both the moon and Jewish people go through phases, disappearing bit by bit until it seems as if they are gone and then by some miracle appearing again. However
powerful the enemy is no one has been able to destroy the Jewish People. In contrast to the Egyptians we Jews can and will change. The Hebrew word for month is Chodesh which is similar to the Hebrew word for new, Chadach and also for the word renewal which is Chidush. When we say the blessing over the new moon each month we should also think about how we can change for the better.
I have been thinking about these concepts and how I can apply these to my way of Life. Israeli dancing is one of my interests and I have performed on many occasions for the Israeli Dance Institute. When you practice a dance to be performed, you have to repeat it over and over again to make it perfect. Yes, it does get boring and you want
to do something new. However, my teacher made me realise that there is an opportunity in every rehearsal to improve and bring something new to the dance. The same is true in our tefillah, prayers. Every day we say the same prayers over and over again. Like dancing, it can become repetitive and it is easy to lose interest. However, if you really look, read and concentrate on the prayers, they will be more meaningful and each time you daven you will find something new that will improve your understanding and kavanna – your concentration and intent. Likewise, being batmitzvah is like starting a new chapter in my life as a Jewish adult. However, celebrating my batmitzvah is not only about becoming a good Jewish woman; it is also about thanking Hashem for the past and present and praying that the future will be as good.