02 Feb Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Parashat Bo 5777
This coming Shabbat we read from Parashat Bo which picks up in the middle of the Ten Plagues. Having endured the first seven, the Egyptians are now subjected to the locusts, darkness and the slaying of the firstborn. From a plot point of view, these are some of the most tense moments in the entire Torah as the Israelites wait for their moment of freedom and are protected from the final plagues by the lamb’s blood that was spread on their doorposts. These are the very same moments that we call to mind when we celebrate Passover (which is, believe it or not, not that far off on the horizon) and therefore it should be no surprise that much of this week’s parasha is read on some of the days of Passover and the weeks leading up to it. These special readings are as follows:
- Chapter 12; verses 1 – 20 – the special reading for Shabbat HaChodesh – the Shabbat preceding (or coinciding) with Rosh Chodesh Nissan
- Chapter 12; verse 21 – 51 – the special reading for the First Day of Passover
- Chapter 13; verses 1 – 16 – the special reading for the First Day Chol Hamo’ed Pesach/the first intermediate day of Passover
Of course this is hardly the only Torah portion that contains verses used for other special occasions, but these feel different. These chapters, and this Torah portion as a whole, are the definition of the idea put forth to us at the Passover Seder that we are meant to feel like we ourselves we freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. And because we read these chapters not only on Passover but also as part of our annual cycle of Torah readings that feeling actually should be part of our emotions not only on Passover but also this very week as we read from Parashat Bo. It helps us remember that while Passover is a time when we focus on what enslaves us and how we can be freed from those burdens, that effort is one that takes place every day of our lives.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik