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Bo in a Nutshell

Bo in a Nutshell

Exodus 10:1–13:16


The last three of the Ten Plagues are visited on Egypt: a swarm of locusts devours all the crops and greenery; a thick, palpable darkness envelops the land; and all the firstborn of Egypt are killed at the stroke of midnight of the 15th of the month of Nissan.

G‑d commands the first mitzvah to be given to the people of Israel: to establish a calendar based on the monthly rebirth of the moon. The Israelites are also instructed to bring a “Passover offering” to G‑d: a lamb or kid is to be slaughtered, and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of every Israelite home, so that G‑d should pass over these homes when He comes to kill the Egyptian firstborn. The roasted meat of the offering is to be eaten that night together with matzah (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs.

The death of the firstborn finally breaks Pharaoh’s resistance, and he literally drives the children of Israel from his land. So hastily do they depart that there is no time for their dough to rise, and the only provisions they take along are unleavened. Before they go, they ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold, silver and garments—fulfilling the promise made to Abraham that his descendants would leave Egypt with great wealth.

The children of Israel are commanded to consecrate all firstborn, and to observe the anniversary of the Exodus each year by removing all leaven from their possession for seven days, eating matzah, and telling the story of their redemption to their children. They are also commanded to wear tefillin on the arm and head as a reminder of the Exodus and their resultant commitment to G‑d.

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Ya'akov Sonoma January 16, 2016

Roasted, not boiled. We see in this and the preceding parashat that waster is used as an agent of destruction, if you will. From here the progression is to water mastered at the Sea of Reeds and finally to bitter water made sweet at Marah. Perhaps there is a clue in this. Roasted, not boiled. Reply

Rochel Chein for January 21, 2015

Roasted lamb The ancient Egyptians worshiped sheep, and the Jews were commanded to sacrifice a lamb as an expression of their faith in one G-d and rejection of idol-worship. The lamb had to be roasted whole, over an open fire, so it would be evident to all that it was indeed a lamb. See also this link . Reply

Anonymous January 21, 2015

the passover lamb why was it roasted could someone please tell me why was the lamb roasted and not boiled cooked.... Reply

CLAYTON LEON WINTON Spokane, WA January 3, 2014

The Many Faces of Bo Religion means different things to different people at different times within their lives.

The "first exposure" is generally cartoon-imagery, which conveys a 'general message' (literalist version), but is really more about introducing concepts. The down-side is that this is as far as most peoples' "religious training" ever goes.

And then, as we live life, we see parallels we did not see before, because we had not experienced enough life yet to make those "connections."

And then, for some, new meanings, new 'lessons,' new ideas, new ways to utilize wisdom in one's own life become apparent.

Some of us see every name as a metaphor for a concept, because the language is so ancient, so evolved, unlike English which is a new language that was designed to be "compartmentalized" to sell knowledge as products and services (via credentialing and entertainments). Translations are only that, "guesstimates," and the rich metaphors get "diluted" if not lost.

and Bo's about that, too, eh? :) Reply

Anonymous USA December 30, 2013

Nobody rejoiced at the killing of Nazi children at Dresden, but it had to be done. Nobody, myself included, ever rejoices at the death of Nazi children, including at Dresden or when somehow GD killed all the firstborn of the Egyptian totalitarians in the mystical text of Exodus. And obviously all of the 'firstborn' of the Egyptian does not necessarily mean that the first born of the Egyptian enslavers were children, they were mostly adults who were first born of the Egyptians.

I actually feel badly for the stupidity of the Nazis at Dresden and the Egyptian enslavers; it was their parents own fault that GD placed sevenfold curses on the Nazis and on the ancient Egyptians for their war against Jews' civil liberties. Reply

Yosef Yitzchak Israel December 30, 2013

Re: The first Mitzvah New moon = first mitzvah GIVEN to the Jews.
Pru u'revu ("be fruitful and multiply") is the first MENTIONED in te Torah, which was given some time after the former mitzva was given, at Har Sinai, with the rest if the Torah.

In other words, at the time of Adam there was no Torah given to Jews as of yet, so naturally it did not technically apply as a mitzva until later when the Torah was given. Reply

david k. Utah January 20, 2013

to Jeff Pots - The first born weren't all children!
- Read your history, like any other many were killed in the civil war. Story of passover is God's war on extreme injustice the civil war was man against man.
- Nations always pay a price for actions of their leaders, this was no different.
- Who's celeberating the slaughter of children? Where do you get this garbage from? Reply

Anonymous USA January 18, 2013

It is a sevenfold sort of thing.... The totalitarian Egyptians tried to murder the Jews, the Egyptian children ended up being killed by GD instead of murdering and enslaving the Jews. There is a difference between killing and murdering.

It reminds me of the firebombing of Dresden in which many of the Nazis' children were brutally killed...the Nazis' children were killed, they were not murdered, there is a difference. The families of Nazis actually do not have the legal right to be alive at all. Reply

Wendy Lockwood Lawton, Oklahoma January 18, 2013

Passover I agree totally with you Yehuda Shurpin. G d dos not rejoice when the wicked are destroyed. Nor do we celebrate this. Israel doesn't mark holidays for this reason. We celebrate our freedom separate from this. Most importantly we are ordained to commemorate Israel's salvation. To keep all of G d Sabbath's and Feast Days for they are Holy. Reply

Anonymous January 17, 2013

To Jeff Potts Freedom from slavery is being celebrated, not the slaughter of children, which the above author reminded you that was decided by the Egyptians. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC January 17, 2013

Re: Firstborn While sounding similar, those two words are spelled differently. Firstborn is BECHOR - BET, CHOF, REISH, while the word for "choice" is "BET, CHET, REISH. Reply

Graham UK January 15, 2013

The ten Plagues The ten plagues were against the Egypt's gods
To prove to the Egyptians and the Hebrews That YHVY Is The only true and living G-D
The killing of the First born male was from birth to old age i am in my 50 's but i am still the first born male in my family so unless i was protected by The blood i would have been killed
Egypt's Ram god (Aries) was supposed to be at his strongest point but The Hebrews were roasting their god so all of Egypt could smell roasted lamb one big BBQ Basically hey we are killing your god But Our YHVY Lives Reply

Yohanon USA January 15, 2013

First mitzvah (commandment) ?? Not hardly. The first mitzvah was given not to man but to animals {Gen. 1, V22}. It was later given to man as our first mitzvah. {Gen. 1, V28). It might be noted that the 15th of Aviv (now Nisan) is a full moon so everyone could see us as we left Egypt. No sneaking away on the shadows. Nisan is the "New Year" of freedom (vs. Rosh HaShana the new year of years and Tu B'Shvat, the new year of trees).
Interestingly, while non-Jews joined the exodus, we are told (Ex. 12 V43) that "no alien (non-Jew) shall eat of it" (the Passover meal).
FINALLY, we "consecrate" the first born of a woman, if a son, with a Pidyon HaBen 30 days after birth. Levys and cohens are exempt. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 15, 2013

Exodus in a Nutshell This ancient story keeps repeating in that there are mirrors in time, and we all experience at one time or other "the desert" in our lives. We feel parched. We feel G_d has deserted us, or there cannot be a G_d. We are wandering and wondering souls, alienated at times from our roots, even by the routes that define our very lives.

I see the Moses story, Exodus, itself, as archetypal, and that we are all of us, Jews and non Jews, reliving in deep ways, these stories. The final destination is learning we were never truly deserted. We each have a story, and that story moves us to another place, and it is the journey, that deeply informs our individual and collective selves, and in deep ways too, we each have an opportunity to lead, and be, Moses.

We define ourselves by our stories. This, perhaps Jewish story, also belongs in a universal sense, to the entire world. Metaphor is a dominant force in our lives. Reply

David H. Australia January 15, 2013

Firstborn I have heard it said that the word for firstborn may be a mistranslation of the original script and that it should have been another almost identical word in the Hebrew, meaning 'the best of' or 'the cream of the crop' - in reference to the Hebrew youth. Any comments on this point? Reply

Anonymous Kanata, ON February 5, 2012

to anonymous, Ny, NY I don't know where I read this, but I once read that the early Habiru, (pre or beginning Judaic) were tribespeople who were hoods.
Perhaps they "liberated" jewelry from the Pharoahs children or guardspeoples' wives- or maybe, after all, it was a planned donation to Moses who was in the court of the Pharoahs? Reply

Anonymous Prescott, AR/US February 3, 2012

To Anonymous, Kanata, ON I happen to live "down south" in the US. They found out why the birds fell from the sky. It was because of fireworks! Just so you know. Reply

Anonymous Prescott, AR/US February 3, 2012

To Jeff Potts The Egyptians were responsible for the deaths of male children of the Hebrews. Moses himself was "supposed" to be one of those killed, but was put in a basket, and saved by Pharoah's daughter.
Maybe this was G-d's justice at work. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for January 31, 2012

Re:Pesach I should note that the plague was not against "children," rather it was against firstborn, which does not necessarily mean children as in a "young child", in other words, its not that the "children of the wicked were punished" rather, they themselves were part of the guilty Egyptians. Without getting into the deeper kabalistic meanings behind this plague, the simple reason for it was as a punishment for the first decree that the Egyptians made which was that all Jewish male children were to be killed right when they were born.
But regardless, Holidays were not given to Israel to mark the downfall of her enemies. Rather, they were ordained to commemorate Israel's salvation. G-d does not rejoice when the wicked are destroyed, and Israel is also not to celebrate these instances. However, we do celebrate our freedom independently of what happened to those who were punished. Of course, when celebrating, we are obligated to recount all of the miracles that G-d preformed. Reply

Jeff Potts Woodland Hills, Ca. January 27, 2012

Passover What a horrible event to celebrate. God literally kills innocent children. In all societies only the rich or well to do own slaves. Why is it that a God who can be so discriminating as to pick out Egyptians cannot punish slave owners and not every Egyptian. Furthermore, why slaughter innocent children? Cannot anyone see why this story would inflame Egyptians. What if during slavery God liberated blacks and killed the firstborn of every American including the abolitionists. Why anyone would celebrate slaughter of children is beyond me. Reply

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