Bo

“Parsha and Purpose” – Bo 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Are We Managing Our Time or is Time Managing Us?”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

“Are We Managing Our Time or is Time Managing Us?”

Recently, our collective optimism about emerging from COVID has been tempered by super-contagious mutations of the virus and a worldwide spike in infections. 

Many of us are once again in lockdown mode, apprehensive and cautious about what the coming months will hold.

Our schedules are uncertain and our time depends upon factors that are beyond our control. We juggle our work obligations and personal responsibilities around our kids’ zoom classes or the needs of our elderly parents. 

Are we managing our time, or is our time managing us? 

We have watched in horror as some people have used this time of instability and insecurity to foment disturbance and violence.

Yet so many others have used this period to grow and blossom as human beings.

Among my own family and circle of friends, I have witnessed so many who have used this period of time to reach out to others less fortunate, intensify loving relationships and develop and explore new skills and talents.

These people are embodying the spirit of the very first mitzvah given to the Jewish People in this week’s parsha, Bo. 

“HaChodesh haZeh lachem” – “This month – each month – is yours.” It belongs to you. (Exodus 12:2)

Through this mitzvah sanctifying each Rosh Chodesh, each new month, God is giving us our first gift as a nation: control over our calendar. What a revolutionary message for a People who were enslaved, whose time was NEVER their own!

God grants us mastery of our own time and emphasizes its sanctity for a reason. He wants us to use it well, in order to achieve important goals and ideals. 

Time is a gift for the free person!  

We can “kill” time. We can allow the needs foisted upon us to subsume our time, becoming slaves to the pressures of the moment.

Or, we can spend time wisely to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others. We can sanctify and manage our calendar to strive toward what we value, what we deem to be important and transformational. 

As we read Parshat Bo this week, let’s reflect on that. Let’s remember that even when so many things have been taken from us, the precious commodity of time is still in our hands and we have the ability to sanctify it. 

It is up to us to determine whether it empowers us, or, God forbid, enslaves us. May we choose wisely.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

Shabbat Shalom: Bo (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin            Efrat, Israel – “May the renewal of the moon be for you [the Festival of] the first day of each month; this month being for you the first of the months of the year” (Exodus 12:2) This interpretation of …

Read more

Rav Ohad Teharlev

Parashat Beshalach: The Nachshon ben Aminadav Effect How can we explain the juxtaposition of Nachshon Ben Aminadav’s leap into the Red Sea and our annual Tu B’Shvat (Jewish Arbor Day), and who has been following in Nachshon’s footsteps in the last few generations? Rabbi Ohad Teharlev is the Director of Israeli Programs at Midreshet Lindenbaum …

Read more

“Parsha and Purpose” – Parshat Bo 5780

The Fall of a Scholar: The importance of remaining in the communal dialogue”

Click here for text

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

The Fall of a Scholar: The importance of remaining in the communal dialogue

In Pirkei Avot we are introduced to Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, the leader of the Jewish people in Judea after the destruction of the Second Temple in the first century of the Common Era, and his five students.  The Mishna goes on to describe the unique characteristics of each of those disciples, and mentions that Rabbi Eliezer ben Arach was the greatest of all. He is described as maayan hamitgaber, an ever-flowing spring of Torah knowledge and inspiration. Mishna Avot 2:8

Rabbi Elazar ben Arach and his wife thought that he would be the natural successor of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai – but he was not chosen.  Disappointed, he moved to a different location and started his own academy. Kohelet Rabba 7:7:2

His students failed to follow him and the yeshiva did not flourish.

We are told in Tractate Shabbat 147b that when Rabbi Elazar ben Arach returned to the Beit Midrash, after his time away, was called to read from the Torah. Reading from this week’s Torah portion, he came to the verse:   “hachodesh hazeh lachem” – this is the way you consecrate the new month, instead he read, “hacheresh haya libam”- their heart has become deaf.

The Maharsha, , Rabbi Shmuel Eidels (1555-1631) in his commentary on the Talmud, asks: “why is this story of Rabbi Elazar ben Arach scripted and choreographed around our Torah portion, and the first mitzva of the Torah, the mitzva of consecrating the new moon?”

The Maharsha explains that this incident serves to highlight that when you walk away from the Torah conversation, the Beit Midrash, even if you are as great a scholar as Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, you can even forget how to read the first mitzva in the Torah.  Chidushei Agadot on Shabbat:147b

I’d like to suggest a different answer.

How is the new moon consecrated?

It’s consecrated by two Jews going to a Beit Din, a court, and announcing that they saw the new moon.

These two Jews do not have to be great Torah scholars, they don’t even have to know how to read from the Torah, but if they can testify on what they’ve seen. That is sufficient.

The three members of the court are appointed by Beit Din HaGadol – and that is also sufficient.

A conversation takes place. Testimony is given, questions are asked and answered. And this conversation establishes the new moon. The entire Jewish calendar, the date that the festivals take place, is established through this conversation.

Even a great personality who has expertise in astronomy and in the orbit of the moon cannot contradict the outcome of that conversation on the new moon.

We follow the conversation, the dialogue that takes place between these two witnesses and the court.

What a powerful message! Even an astronomer or a professor of mathematics cannot contradict the consecration of the moon, the consecration of the new month that is established by these two individuals in their dialogue with the Beit Din, the Jewish court.

I think the message that the Gemara is trying to highlight is that no man, even a great scholar like Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, can work in a vacuum.

He made a mistake when he read the parsha, this week’s Torah portion, that speaks about the need for a dialogue, a conversation. The Jewish calendar is can only be established when Jews are in conversation with each other.

This is what allows us to orchestrate the holidays. And the question we need to ask ourselves, as individuals, is have we lost the ability to have a conversation? Have our hearts become deaf?  Do we actively listen to others? Do we sanctify the calendar and time by actively listening?

Do we listen to our children, or do we have an automatic response?

Do we find time to listen to our spouses? Do we find time to listen to Jews who celebrate their Judaism differently than we do, or perhaps don’t even celebrate their Judaism at all?

Are we willing to listen to them? Are we willing to give them credence?

Rabbi Elazar ben Arach thought that he could be an island unto himself. That simply doesn’t work.

You need to have a conversation. The first mitzva in the Torah highlights the responsibility for us to celebrate the calendar, the freedom to be able to control our time through the establishment of a new month, through a conversation between people. Exodus 12:2

Parshat Bo. The first mitzva in the Torah reminds us of the sacred opportunity to actively listen and maintain a dialogue.

And when even the greatest of Torah scholars forgot that, he loses his Torah knowledge, because without the conversation, our Torah knowledge in many ways lacks intellectual honesty and remains incomplete.

Shabbat Shalo

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Bo (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  “When your children will say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is the Passover service to God’” Why does the author of the Haggada call the questioner in this sequence “the wicked child”? The …

Read more

Rabbi Nechemia Krakover

Parashat Bo: The Internal Process in the Exodus from Egypt Every external process starts with an internal process. The question here isn’t merely what a person is prepared to exhibit, out in the open. It’s mainly about how much that person is prepared to expose inwardly, or, in other words, a person’s self-identification and self-determination. …

Read more

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “And God said unto Moses: ‘Go in unto Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these My signs in the midst of them.’”  (Exodus 10:1) Why does God declare that He has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” …

Read more