Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Bo.

The Power of Renewal

“This month is for you the beginning of months.”

Our Sages interpret this statement as a commandment to sanctify the new moon. When the new moon was sighted by the Jewish people and testimony to that effect was delivered in court, the new month began.

The holidays we observe are dependent on the days of the month. They are not just celebrations on the earthly plane, but rather events that cause changes in the spiritual realms above. Thus G‑d and the heavenly court wait, as it were, for the judges on this earthly plane to determine when the months begin.

This is not only a halachic concept. In an inner personal sense as well, the power of renewal is vested in the Jewish people. No matter what a person’s situation is, he is capable of renewing himself. He can penetrate to the G‑dly core within his heart and find the inner resources to make radical changes in his life and his circumstances. Every Jew possesses a soul that is an actual part of G‑d. Just as G‑d stands above the natural order and manipulates it at will, so too, every Jew has the potential to rise above his natural tendencies and his habits and begin a new phase of personal development.

We do not have to accept our present limitations. On the contrary, our G‑dly potential is infinite and at each and every moment, we can exercise our capacity for renewal, changing our situation radically.
Read more

The Challenge

The name of this week’s Torah reading Bo means “come.” The term is interpreted as meaning “enter” or “penetrate.” Moses was commanded to come and approach Pharaoh. As the Zohar states, he was told to enter room after room, penetrating to the very core of Pharaoh’s palace.

The Zohar continues, explaining that Moses shrank at this command. He was daunted by the charge to confront evil at its very core. To reassure him, G‑d told him, “Come.” “Come,” i.e., “come with Me,” and not “go,” “go alone.” G‑d promised that He would accompany Moses and face Pharaoh with him.

This command thus requires personal initiative, and simultaneously, promises that such initiative will be rewarded by G‑d’s assistance. Moses was required to act on his own, but not independently. G‑d would support his efforts.

This dynamic is replayed in microcosm in the myriad spiritual struggles that we all continually face. We must confront Pharaoh - brave the challenges to Jewish involvement that the outside environment appears to present. And this includes not only viewing those challenges from afar, but penetrating to their core and looking at them from up close.

One would be foolish not to be somewhat daunted by the task. And yet, one’s hesitation should only be temporary. We have the power to persevere in our mission. When we do, we find out that we are not alone. G‑d is with us, supporting our efforts.

This enables us to transform the world around us. Just as Pharaoh became the power who urged the Jews out of Egypt, so too, every element of our existence can become a positive and contributory, influence, aiding our Jewish involvement.
Read more

Midnight

The tenth and final plague was the Plague of the Firstborn, which Moses indicated would take place at midnight. To shield themselves from this plague, Jews were to sprinkle blood from the Paschal offering and from circumcision, on their doorposts.

Why did Moses indicate when this plague would take place? And why was it necessary for the Jewish people to seek protection?

The purpose of the last plague was to rain personal destruction upon the Egyptians. At such a time, it was possible for the Attribute of Justice to declare: “How are they [the Jews] different from them? [the Egyptians],” for there were Jews in Egypt who were mired in idolatry.

In order to remove any possible complaint, G‑d brought the final plague at precisely midnight, so that it emanated from a level at which logic had no standing. At the time of the final plague, there was a manifestation of the essential love that G‑d has for the Jewish people — a love that transcends all logic and reason. Because of this love, G‑d responds that, whatever their state, the Jewish people are His children.

This is also why the sign on the Jewish houses consisted of the blood of circumcision and of the Passover offering, as both indicate a level of service that transcends logic: The bond between a Jew and G‑d achieved through circumcision is above logic, as we see from the fact that the mitzvah takes place while a child is utterly incapable of understanding the deed. Bringing the Paschal offering in Egypt was also bound up with self-sacrifice, and beyond logic, for the lambs used for the offering were worshipped by the Egyptians.

This manner of service above and beyond the level of understanding elicited a similar response from G‑d — the revelation of His limitless love for the Jewish people.
Read more

Home and Away

A difference between the Paschal offering brought in Egypt and subsequent Paschal offerings is that those brought in Egypt were sacrificed by each family within their homes, while the later offerings had to be sacrificed in the Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash.

Why did the Egyptian Paschal offering differ from all subsequent Paschal offerings?

The Midrash informs us that “G‑d earnestly desired a dwelling in the nethermost level,” i.e., in this physical world. This was primarily accomplished, according to the Midrash, when the Mishkan was built, as the verse states: “And you shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall reside among them.”

Our Sages comment: “It does not state [‘I shall reside] in it,’ rather, ‘in them,’ that is to say, within each and every Jew.” Since all verses are first and foremost to be understood in their simple sense, it follows that in addition to the primary Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash, each Jew should create his own personal Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash, so that G‑d will reside within him.

This is why the Jews were to bring offerings within their own homes in Egypt, for since those offerings took place at the time of the nation’s birth, the purpose of that nationhood had to be stressed — that, through their personal spiritual service, they would have G‑d dwelling within each one of them, transforming their individual homes into a dwelling place for G‑d.
Read more

From Greatest Darkness to Greatest Light

The Torah does not tell us the exact times when many important events occurred. Nevertheless, we are told that Pharoah commanded the Jews to leave Egypt exactly at midnight on the 15th of Nissan. Further, the Torah narrates the exact moment they actually left: The next day, precisely at noon – not delaying even for the “blink of an eye”: