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Parashat Bo

January 27, 2023
5 Sh'vat 5783
Exodus 10:1 - 13:16

Dear Friends,

Tehillah recently released the latest episode of Tehillah Talks (click HERE to listen), an opportunity for teens to explore where they are in their lives in relation to the Jewish tradition. Our most recent episode focused on how we navigate the next steps in our lives and how we are always in the process of formation. We discussed how there is not just one genesis moment in our lives, there are many.

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Bo (“Come”) is found in Exodus 10:1 – 13:16. Much of the portion deals with the final 3 plagues, the first Passover, and the Exodus from Egypt. Embedded in this Torah portion, beyond the dramatic action and the beginnings of a people who are a mixed multitude, are the words that Moses uses to inspire his people.

Over and over again we are told to look to the future and how our actions today can impact the future. The future being invoked is a distant one, reminding us how our actions today matter, not just for ourselves but for the next generation. Moses speaks to that future three times.

“And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to YHVH, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when smiting the Egyptians, but saved our houses.’ Those assembled then bowed low in homage”. (12:26-27)

“And you shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what יYHVH did for me when I went free from Egypt.” (13:8)

“And when, in time to come, a child of yours asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall reply, ‘It was with a mighty hand that YHVH brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage.” (13:14)

Even as we act today, our obligation is to the future. That obligation is to tell the story and tell it so that we begin a conversation from which all parties may learn. It is not that history repeats itself, rather, history is one of our greatest teachers, which is especially true when it is our own.

Teaching is not the accumulation of facts, it is about vision, action, and the power each and everyone of us carry inside. Moses knew that real change in human behavior is the work of generations. The work of transforming the Israelites into an ethical nation continues to be an ongoing project. The world will only change if we change with it, as our ancestors taught us.

The lunar new year has just begun so I will quote Confucius: “If you plan for a year, plant rice, if you plan for a decade plant a tree. If you plan for posterity, educate a child.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Inspired by the writings of Rabbi Jonathan z"l Sacks

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784