Parshat Bo: The Timeless Story of Yetziat Mizrayim
Rabbi Marcus and Lydia Rosenberg are Straus-Amiel shlichim in Melbourne, Australia. Rabbi Marcus is a Rabbi at Hamayan Minyan and Jewish Studies Teacher at Leibler Yavneh College, and Lydia is Rebbetzin of Hamayan and teacher and coordinator of the UJEB Bat Mitzvah program.
In Parshat Bo, Am Yisrael is given a mitzva that forced them to rise above nature and be superhuman. Not only were they commanded to slaughter an Egyptian deity before their masters’ eyes, but Hashem told them to rise above time itself, and they did it.
He asks the same of us, and we do it too.
In the depths of Egypt, Hashem not only commanded them to practice the first Seder, but he commanded them to be conscious of the future Sedarim.
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה לְחׇק־לְךָ֥ וּלְבָנֶ֖יךָ עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ “וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִתֵּ֧ן יְהֹוָ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הָעֲבֹדָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃ וְהָיָ֕ה כִּֽי־יֹאמְר֥וּ אֲלֵיכֶ֖ם בְּנֵיכֶ֑ם מָ֛ה הָעֲבֹדָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את לָכֶֽם׃ וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֡ם זֶֽבַח־פֶּ֨סַח ה֜וּא לַֽיהֹוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּ֠סַ֠ח עַל־בָּתֵּ֤י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם בְּנׇגְפּ֥וֹ אֶת־מִצְרַ֖יִם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּ֣ינוּ הִצִּ֑יל וַיִּקֹּ֥ד הָעָ֖ם וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲוֽוּ׃
“You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants. And when you enter the land that God will give you, as promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to God, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when smiting the Egyptians, but saved our houses.’ Those assembled then bowed low in homage.”
In the depths of Egypt, Bnei Yisrael rise above time and not only imagine their freedom but embrace a command to remember their time of slavery, amidst their future freedom. Here they rise above their present and transport themselves into the future when they will be looking back on this time, and remembering its lessons.
But, of course, we have the mitzva of remembering the exodus from Egypt once we arrive in the Land of Israel and we have achieved the goal of freedom. Now, having reached the Promised Land, we need to remind ourselves of the value of freedom. Then, in Parashat Ki Tavo, when we find ourselves at the height of our affluence and bring a portion of that to Hashem as Bikkurim (First Fruits) we are transported back in time to an era when we had no wealth and no freedom to create it.
Where at first we were transported forwards from a bleak present to glorious future, giving us hope, we are then transported from our greatness to our insignificance, to instill in us a sense of gratitude and humility.
Today, we need to be transported, once again, forward in time. Although many have returned to Eretz Yisrael, here on shlichut we know all too well the necessity of maintaining the hope of taught to us by Micha, (7:15):
“כִּימֵ֥י צֵאתְךָ֖ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אַרְאֶ֖נּוּ נִפְלָאֽוֹת׃“ – “I will show him wondrous deeds, as in the days when you sallied forth from the land of Egypt.”
This too can transport us to a future time, not so we can deny the work needed today, but so that we can keep sight of the vision of all of all the Jewish people returned to our homeland, building a home which combines a present of peace and joy, and a past from which we learn the lessons of freedom, gratitude and humility, that help us make sure it lasts into the future.
(Ideas for this Dvar Torah are based on the work of Rav Soloveitchik in Festival of Freedom)
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