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Perashat Bo

Dedicated by Lorie and Dr. Murray Jonas in honor of Mr Isaac Cabasso

In this week’s Perashah we will encounter the last of the ten plagues that Hashem brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. There's an interesting gematria in the first two letters from last weeks parasha "VaEra" (vav and aleph=7), also in the first two letters of this weeks parasha, perashat "Bo" (bet and aleph=3). Last weeks parasha discussed the first seven makot and this weeks perashah discusses the last three makot for a total of ten makot, corresponding to the gematria of the first two letters of each perashah. Also, looking back at the sequence of the plagues, we can detect a very interesting pattern that conveys the ways in which Hashem works. First of all, the plagues are "Derech Hateva" which means that they work within the realm of Nature. The pattern they follow is “low to high”; that is, the plagues begin at the lowest point on earth and continuously rise from there. The first plague is Dam, or Blood, in which the water turned to blood. Water is at the lowest point on Earth. This is followed by Tzefardea, Frogs; frogs that are amphibians who live partly in water, and partly on land. The third plague is Kinim, Lice. Lice are wingless insects that emerge from the ground. Next comes Arov, which refers to Wild Animals, who live above ground. The fifth plague is Dever, or Pestilence; that is disease that affects animals. Shehin, or Boils, affects people. And Barad is hail, two opposite elements of fire and ice mixed together that fell from the sky onto the ground. The wind brought Arbeh or Locusts, next, followed by Hoshech, Darkness, which was thick that held the Egyptians motionless in their place. Last was Makat Bechorot, the Killing of the First Born, which Hashem decided who will die and at exactly what time. It seems odd how Pharaoh prepares himself for the final plague of Makat Bechorot(Killing of the First Born), the plague that will finally break Pharaoh’s will and force him to let B'nei Yisrael leave Egypt. The Pasuk (12:30) says: Vayakom Pharaoh layla. "Pharaoh got up at night...." Rashi comments on this Pasuk with just one word: mimitato, “from his bed". What Rashi is saying here is simply that Pharaoh, who was a first-born and who had a first-born son, was so brazen that he was actually able to fall asleep even though he’d been told that he or his son might not live through the night! So after Moshe had approached him nine times, and each of the nine warnings had come to pass so far, Pharaoh's Yetzer Hara' was so strong that he still didn't believe Moshe regarding the final and most devastating plague. Did he think that Hashem was bluffing after everything that he and Egypt had gone through? This just goes to show us how strong the Yetzer Hara' can be and how it can fool a person, so that even when something should be totally obvious and self-evident to us, our Yetzer Hara' can actually blind us beyond reason. The main point that Ramban is teaching us through the miracles of the plagues is that there is no difference between Hashem's miracles and nature because it's all the same, as Hashem controls nature! Ramban discusses two reasons why Hashem hardened Pharoah's heart in this parasha, which begins with the seventh plague. One reason was to place these signs (makot) in their midst, in order to show Hashem's might and to make a mockery of Egypt. The second reason is so that B'nei Yisrael may witness all these signs, so that they will relate them to all their future generations. These ten plagues that Hashem brought was in order to break Pharaoh, and induce him to free the slaves that will ultimately bring about the Exodus of B'nei Yisrael from Egypt. This, so that they can become a free people in order to prepare them to accept the Torah at Har Sinai. The Ramban continues with a very famous and most remarkable commentary at the end of this Perashah. Ramban says, that there are three ways that the Yetzer Hara' tries to turn us away from belief in Hashem. It presents us with three levels of rejection: 1) There's absolutely no G-d. 2) There is a G-d but He doesn't pay attention to what's going on in the world (as if the world is on auto pilot). 3) There is a G-d who knows what's going on but he has no control over what happens on a day-to-day basis; in other words, the world is in a free-fall, and there is no such thing as reward and punishment. The Ramban answers these three philosophical concepts through the miracles that Hashem displayed for all the world to see, which prove that Hashem is always present; that He does run the world day to day; and that there is a reward and punishment system in place! Hashem saved B'nei Yisrael through the ten plagues, which powerfully altered the forces of nature, in order to prove these things one time, and one time only. In addition to the plagues, he split the Red Sea as Pharaoh and his army pursued Am Yisrael. Ramban goes on to explain that the reason that we have so many commandments and the reason so many of our commandments focus on Yetziat Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt) is to remind us of the power of Hashem and his involvement in our lives. The ten plagues and the parting of the sea appear in our daily prayers, and we are reminded each time how Hashem saved us beyad hazaka – with a strong hand! Ramban explains that the holidays we celebrate – Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot – were all given to us as reminders of the exodus from Egypt. Pesah teaches us about Hashem through all the rituals of the holiday, such as the eating of the Matzah and the gathering around the seder table with different foods that prompt the children to ask questions. We want to engage our children in conversation about Yetziat Mitzrayim and all the wonders that Hashem performed for B'nei Yisrael to save them from the bondage of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Similarly, in the holiday of Shavuot, we celebrate receiving of our holy Torah at Har Sinai, where Hashem gave to B'nei Yisrael through Moshe Rabenu, the greatest gift of all, so that we can live by the Torah and pass its precepts and teachings down through the generations from father to son and Rabbi to student. The Torah that Hashem has bestowed upon the Jewish people was given to us so that we can spend our days learning and growing by the words of Hashem. This is the essence of why Hashem created the world and chose us to be his children from among all the other nations. Finally, there is the celebration of Sukkot, which commemorates the forty years that we traveled through the desert, during which time Hashem protected us with the Mann and the Clouds of Glory. On Sukkot we sit outside of our homes in booths, and try to feel what B'nei Yisrael felt when they were traveling through the desert. We want to show that all that we have in this world is just temporary and that the real world is in Olam Habba. The holidays reinforce the concept of earning Olam Haba by performing mitzvot and sanctifying the name of Hashem in the years that we are here on this earth. Ramban goes on to say that all the miracles that Hashem performed in order to redeem us were intended to show the world, that, lehavdil, this is Hashem’s "certificate" for the rest of time. An analogy for this can be drawn to doctors displaying their diplomas. Doctors hang their diplomas on the wall of their office to prove that they are qualified in their designated profession for all time, so that if anyone should come along and question their credibility, they need only to point to the diploma hanging on the wall in their office. Similarly, if anyone should ever come along, for the rest of time, and (hass veshalom) question G-d’s omnipotence and His role in our lives, the miracles of the Exodus were there for all the world to see. And in this way, we will remember Yetziat Mitzrayim for all time on every single day of our lives, through our prayers and our holidays! May we all be aware to see the signs that Hashem sends us in order to make Teshuvah. May we all understand that our Tefilot and our practices, that keeping Shabbat and all the holidays, are meant to be reminders that Hashem delivered us from bondage so that we could receive the Torah and become a free people serving Hashem forever! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal