Torah Minute – BO January 2000

(For the First Yahrziet of my father, 10 Shevat, 5760)

The portion of Bo, containing as it does, the final plagues and the departure from Egypt and slavery, is certainly one of the most stirring narratives in the Torah and one of the few PARSHIOT that I can appreciate fully in its original language. True, the Hebrew phrases are amongst the most familiar, comprising much of the HAGGADA (the order of the Passover service), but the words have a power of their own which preclude the need for translation.

As I read the account of the final days in Egypt, I am always struck by the noticeable break in the narrative just prior to the Tenth Plague, where H-SHEM teaches Moses and Aaron the law of the KORBAN PESACH, the Passover Sacrifice. This text seems a bit out of place, interrupting the story of the Exodus at a crucial moment. Clearly there is a lesson to be learned by this interruption and our Sages provide us with some insight.

H-SHEM engineered the Exodus as a series of events that would serve, at least on the surface, to prove to B’NAI YISROEL’s captors that a power greater than Pharaoh desired their freedom. But in fact, it was the captives themselves, whose spirits were nearly destroyed by 210 years of slavery, who required the miracles, signs and wonders of the Exodus to convince them to arise and embark upon the journey to redemption.

Now, after witnessing 9 of the Ten Plagues, B’NAI YISROEL was able, even anxious, to physically JOURNEY to the Promised Land, but they lacked the spiritual means to ATTAIN the Promised Land. Attainment of the Promised Land, attainment of Redemption, comes only through the attainment of TORAH. For B’NAI YISROEL, the process began at the eve of their departure from Egypt, with their first lesson in TORAH observance, the law of the KORBAN PESACH.

Today, the story of the Passover not only recalls past redemption, but also serves to remind us of the Great Redemption of the Future, again only attainable through every Jew’s individual attainment of TORAH. Seen in this light, the significance of interrupting the narrative of the last days in Egypt with the KORBAN PESACH becomes clear.

The interruption tells us that no matter what we are doing, no matter how important the task at hand is, it is vital to set aside some time each day to study TORAH. Every MITZVA we perform, sets another stone in the Third Temple, every moment we study TORAH we make an ALIYAH, a step upward towards the Great Redemption of the Messianic age, may we merit it BIMHERAH VEYOMENU (speedily and in our time).