Parashat Bo 5783

January 24, 2023

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah Moses Gone Rogue A D’var Torah for Parashat Bo By Cantor Robin Anne Joseph (’96) In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, Moses goes rogue. True, he has already been known to have “acted out,” shall we say. There was the incident of Moses killing an Egyptian taskmaster upon seeing him beating a Hebrew slave, so we know Moses has a temper, but that was before Moses was under the tutelage of ‘ה. Doesn’t Moses now have an obligation to adhere to the directives of this Higher Power? It seems to start out that way. ‘ה has given Moses the task of administering the plagues and Moses has been faithfully carrying out that task. Up to this point, between the efforts of ‘ה, and Aaron and Moses as directed by ‘ה, the plagues seem to be going according to plan. But tensions are high and, as we begin this...

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Parashat Bo -5782

January 7, 2022

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D‘var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Bo By Rabbi Michael Rothbaum (’06)There’s a well-known rabbinic discussion in the beginning of the Torah about the book of Genesis. The question is asked: why start there, when the mitzvot, the sacred obligations of the Jewish people, don’t appear until Exodus? The conversations around that question are fascinating. (See, for instance, Rashi’s discussion here). But it’s in this week’s reading, Parashat Bo, that those mitzvot show up — primarily among them, the first Passover meal. In that elemental mitzvah, we see a template for all mitzvot to come. First, some context. The first Pesah lands in between miracles. The Israelites have just witnessed nine plagues, as the once-great Egyptian empire has been brought low. Though they don’t know it yet, they are about to experience redemption at the Red Sea. For now, they are in their homes. God gives Moses a series of instructions to pass along to the Israelites in preparation for the tenth plague, the...

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Parashat Bo 5781

January 22, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Bo By Rabbi Lizz Goldstein (’16) As I write this, the National Guard are gathering in abundance just a few miles away from me. It feels near impossible to try to plan ahead remarks for Shabbat this week, when our country and democratic institutions seem to be on unstable ground. I feel hopeful for a high probability of a relatively normal inauguration day, but I cannot ignore that there is still a distinct possibility for further violence and attempts to overthrow democracy, a reprise of the events of January 6th. By the time this is published, inauguration day will be history, but even if it does go smoothly, I implore you not to write off the concerns as hyperbolic or hysterical. That sort of dismissal has allowed for escalating violence throughout history, and we must...

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Parashat Bo 5780

January 29, 2020

A D’var Torah for Parashat Bo By Rabbi Bruce Alpert (’11) “This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months.” (Exodus 12:2) This has to be one of the most jarring verses in all of Torah. After eleven uninterrupted chapters of perhaps the most dramatic story ever told – the conflict between Moses and Pharaoh – we find ourselves in what quickly becomes a detailed discussion of the observance of the festival of Pesah. Gone is the ratcheting tension of human obstinacy in the face of divine wrath and in its place, twenty-eight verses of calendars, cooking instructions and details for future observances. And yet, in this mass of interrupting detail, I find the answer to what I consider a particularly troubling verse in this week’s parashah, Bo. It too concerns the celebration of a festival. Faced with yet another plague, Pharaoh asks Moses who among the Israelites will depart with him...

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Parashat Bo 5779

January 11, 2019

A D’var Torah for Parashat Bo By Rabbi Heidi Hoover (’11) In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we are in the midst of the dramatic story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, when they go from slavery to freedom. Because it is the story we retell at Passover, it is one of the most familiar in the Torah. God frees the Israelites “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Psalm 136:12). In parashat Bo, the last three of the ten plagues befall the Egyptians: locusts, darkness, and the death of the first-born. The penultimate plague, darkness, seems like it might be less destructive than the other two. After all, it gets dark every night, and we all get through it. But this wasn’t like that regular, natural darkness. This was three solid days of “darkness that can be touched” (Exodus 10:21). “A person could not see his brother or...

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