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Parashat Bo

January 7, 2022
5 Sh'vat 5782

Parashat Bo
Exodus 10:1 - 13:16

Dear Friends,

This past week, Congregation Tehillah mourned the death of one of its founding members, Debbie Eiseman. I share this to reflect upon the way she embodied through her relationships with others what this week’s Torah portion Bo comes to teach us. The way we behave in the world makes a difference.

As we read this Torah portion, we are once more reminded that this group of soon to be former slaves were not easy to lead. This situation is so true for each and every one of us. We hate being told what to do and how to do it. As we read about the final plagues and the taking leave of Egypt, I am once more struck by the particular way that the people did not listen. There is that pivotal moment after the plague of the death of the first born where the people wait for morning to come, despite the Pharaoh’s demand for the people to leave that very night (Exodus 12:31); yet, a few verses later we are told that that night was a vigil -- a vigil to be remembered.

As human beings, we need time to process what is going on around us. They did as well. Even as we are about to enter our third year of dealing with Covid, we are processing and readjusting our expectations.

However, it is not the vigil that captures my imagination, it is the mixed multitude that departed from Egypt (Exodus 12:38). A few verses later, we are given guidance on to how to be with one another when we journey together.

There shall be one Torah for the native citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.” (Exodus 12:49) That sense of interconnectedness that I witnessed over the past week was modeled for all of us and by all of us in a truly accessible manner.

Sometimes the words of Torah alone are not enough for us to understand what is being asked of us. Our world has become smaller and more interconnected in so many ways; yet, so many of us operate within our own bubbles. This dynamic has been especially true over the past two years. This week was a potent reminder that we are stronger together, that the ability to welcome the stranger makes all of us stronger and kinder. Leaving that which is known, even when it is difficult, is an act of courage. It takes faith. The word bo can mean either “go” or “come." Both acts demand courage -- the ability to take one's leave and go and the other to welcome in those we have not known before.

This Torah portion is a reminder of deep wrenching pain and the possibility of creating a new beginning, one that welcomes diversity. As we enter a new year, may we welcome those we meet along the way with kindness and hope.

"Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah") May we be gentle with ourselves and one another as we go forth into the new year, ever after a mixed multitude.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn


Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782