Hillel the Elder said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” [Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 31a https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.31a]
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” p.516
FOR OUR COUNTRY
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bo
Bo (בֹּא — Hebrew for “Go [to Pharaoh]”) – Exodus 10:1-13:16
Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them.” – Exodus 10:1
- God sends the plagues of locusts and darkness upon Egypt and forewarns Moses about the final plague, the death of every Egyptian firstborn. Pharaoh still does not let the Israelites leave Egypt. (10:1-11:10)
- God commands Moses and Aaron regarding the Passover festival. (12:1-27)
- God enacts the final plague, striking down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt except those of the House of Israel. Pharaoh now allows the Israelites to leave. (12:29-42)
- Speaking to Moses and Aaron, God repeats the commandments about Passover. (12:43-13:16)
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_(parsha)
Connection to the Parashah
Both the parashah and the haftarah describe God’s judgment against Egypt. The parashah reports that God told Moses to go (bo) to Pharaoh; the haftarah reports God’s word that Nebuchadnezzar would come (la-vo) to Pharaoh. Both the parashah and the haftarah report a plague of locusts — literal in the parashah, figurative in the haftarah. Both the parashah and the haftarah report God’s punishment of Egypt’s gods. And both the parashah and the haftarah report God’s ultimate deliverance of the Israelites from their captivity.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_(parsha)
Bo (בֹּא — in Hebrew, the command form of “go,” or “come”) – Exodus 10:1-13:16
In the triennial part of Bo, Exodus 11:4-12:28, Moses tells Pharaoh that God will kill the firstborn of the Egyptians, and leaves in anger. God tells Moses and Aaron “to mark that month as the first of the months of the year,” and to teach the Israelites the laws of the Passover service, lamb and abstaining from leavened bread.
Moses instructs Israelite elders to kill their Passover lambs, paint their doorways with the lamb’s blood, and remain inside their houses until morning. God would smite the Egyptians, but pass over the house marked with blood and not allow “the Destroyer” into it. They are to observe the Passover service for all time, and when their children ask what the service means, they are to say that it commemorates God passing over the Israelites’ houses when God smote the Egyptians. The people bow the head, worship, and do as God commanded Moses and Aaron.
In Modern Interpretation
The late-19th-century German biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen conceived of early Israelite religion as linked to nature’s annual cycle and believed that Scripture only later connected the festivals to historical events like the Exodus from Egypt. Professor James Kugel of Bar Ilan University reported that modern scholars generally agreed that Passover reflects two originally separate holidays arising out of the annual harvest cycle. One Festival involved the sacrificing and eating of an animal from the flock, the pesa sacrifice, which arose among shepherds who sacrificed in the light of the full moon of the month that marked the vernal equinox and the end of winter (as directed in Exodus 12:6) to bring Divine favor for a safe and prosperous summer for the rest of the flock. The shepherds slaughtered the animal at home, as the rite also stipulated that some of the animal’s blood be daubed on the doorposts and lintel of the house (as directed in Exodus 12:7) to ward off evil. The rite prescribed that no bone be broken (as directed in Exodus 12:46) so as not to bring evil on the flock from which the sacrifice came. Scholars suggest that the name pesa derived from the verb that means “hop” (as in 1 Kings 18:21 and 26), and theorize that the holiday may originally have involved some sort of ritual “hopping.” A second Festival — the Festival of Unleavened Bread — involved farmers eating unleavened barley bread for seven days when the winter’s barley crop had reached maturity and was ready for harvest. Farmers observed this Festival with a trip to a local sanctuary (as in Exodus 23:17 and 34:23). Modern scholars believe that the absence of yeast in the bread indicated purity (as in Leviticus 2:11). The listing of Festivals in Exodus 23:14–17 and 34:18–23 appear to provide evidence for the independent existence of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Modern scholars suggest that the farmers’ Festival of Unleavened Bread and the shepherds’ Passover later merged into a single festival, Passover moved from the home to the Temple, and the combined festival was explicitly connected to the Exodus (as in Deuteronomy 16:1–4).
Killing of the Firstborn (מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת – makat b’chorot) of Pharaoh, Egyptians, prisoners – even of the cattle. Those who put blood on their doorposts were spared. Why the cattle?
The ancient Egyptians worshipped a goddess often shown as a cow or woman wearing cow horns and a sun disk, symbolizing her maternal-nourishment and celestial aspect. She was called Hathor and was one of the most popular Egyptian deities, especially among women. Hathor was also worshipped outside of Egypt, including Canaan.
According to Wikipedia: “The theology surrounding the pharaoh in the Old Kingdom [c. 2686-2181 BCE]… focused heavily on the sun god Ra as king of the gods and father and patron of the earthly king. Hathor ascended with Ra and became his mythological wife, and thus divine mother of the pharaoh…. More than any other deity, she exemplifies the Egyptian perception of femininity … [encompassing both the extreme passions of fury and love.]” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hathor
The male writers of the Torah clearly wanted to demonstrate that the Eternal One was much more powerful than any earthly ruler and any other deity. But, what about the prisoners? Why is the “captive who was in the dungeon” included in the list?
In The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash (ArtScroll, copyright 2010, by Mesorah Publications, Ltd.), the note on the death of the firstborn states:
“Pharaoh was the only firstborn to be spared, so that he could tell all the world about God’s greatness. The Egyptian firstborn died because they had persecuted the Jews; those of the captives died because they enjoyed Jewish suffering, or so that they would not be able to claim that their idols had protected them.”
In The Torah / A Women’s Commentary edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss (copyright 2008 by URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism), the note on the slaying of the firstborn states:
“The prior narrative – set aside since 12:1 – picks up again here…. When this sign is announced (11:5), a slave girl exemplifies the lowest member of society. Here a different figure, a male captive, is contrasted with Pharaoh to signify that all elements of Egyptian society are subject to the reach of God’s wrath.”
Whether we accept what is written in this portion as factual or mythological, there are truths to be discovered in it. Truths about human nature and the treatment of others, especially women and the powerless – and nature. While this is part of our foundation myth and tells of our people’s struggle against tyranny and subjugation, it also reveals something about the nature of society and politics, which are byproducts of sequential perception. They tell us where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those at home alone; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
This week, the 10th through the 16th of Shevat, we lovingly remember:
Survivor of Mengele’s twin experiments, relative of Ruben Gomez
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, COVID-19, natural disasters, war and violence – including those who died on the assault of the US Capitol. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, January 22, 2021 [another palindrome: 1-22-21].
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Bo (triennial part) Exodus 11:4-12:28
Time: Jan 22, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jan 22, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!