Category Archives: Parshas Bo

Parshas Bo: Do We Really Know Better?

Parshas Bo

Do We Really Know Better?

“[Pharaoh] called for Moshe and Aharon that night and said, “Get up and go from among my people, both you and B’nei Yisrael. Go worship Hashem as you have said [requested].” (Shmos 12:31)

The 9th plague that Hashem punished the Egyptians with, was the plague of choshech, darkness. Rashi (Shmos 10:23) says that during the first 3 days it was so dark that the Egyptians were unable to see each other. Over the next 3 days, the darkness was substantive. It was so palpably dark that the Egyptians could not move. They were frozen in place. If an Egyptian happened to be sitting when this second period of darkness began, he was unable to rise. If he had been standing, he would have been unable to sit.

The Chasam Sofer says that the Jewish People had a golden opportunity during this plague. They could have risen and killed the Egyptians! Then they could have escaped from Egypt without a fight. Why didn’t they? The Chasam Sofer quotes Targum Yonasan ben Uziel (Bereishis 50:25) who explains that Yosef had made the Jewish People swear that they would not attempt to leave Egypt before the time that Hashem had designated.  When would that time be? Yosef had told them that two people would come to take them out. The two would say the code words, “פָּקֹ֧ד יִפְקֹ֣ד אֶתְכֶ֗ם”, “Hashem will surely remember you”. 

Luckily, the Jews listened to the promise and waited for Moshe and Aharon who used these code words. A tragedy had occurred 30 years earlier. The Midrash (Shmos Rabbah 20:11; Midrash Lekach Tov, Midrash Sechel Tov 13:17) tells us that the tribe of Ephraim miscalculated the date which they thought was the designated date for freedom. Their calculations were off by 30 years. They escaped from Egypt but did not wait for the two redeemers who would say the “code words”. It was a tragic mistake. After leaving Egypt early, 300,000 Jews from the tribe of Ephraim were killed by the Plishtim. 

The Chasam Sofer’s explanation helps explain another Midrash (Shmos Rabbah 14:1). The Midrash says when Hashem decreed that the Egyptians deserved the plague of darkness, all the angels concurred. Even the guardian angel of Egypt agreed. The Satmar Rebbe (quoted in Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin) wondered why this plague was unique in that it received the approval of the guardian angel of Egypt.

The answer is that the guardian angel of Egypt realized the inherent danger to the Jewish People. While the Egyptians were immobilized, the Jews had the opportunity to escape. They could have finally become free! However, it was not yet the moment that Hashem had decreed for them to go free. Had they left then, it would have been too soon. They would have met the same fate as the Jews from the tribe of Ephraim and would have been killed. That is what the guardian angel of Egypt had hoped would happen. However, since the Jews had total faith in Hashem and did not leave a moment too soon, their lives were spared!

There was a similar occurrence by makas bechoros, the plaue of the killing of the firstborn. The Torah says (12:31), “[Pharaoh] called for Moshe and Aharon that night and said, “Get up and go from among my people, both you and the B’nei Yisrael. Go worship Hashem as you have said [requested].” After midnight, the Egyptians were pressing the Jews to leave Egypt. The Jews had been waiting for this opportunity for so many years! Yet the Jews did not leave until the morning. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l (Emes L’Yaakov) says that the Jews knew from past experiences that Pharoah had changed his mind about freeing them on many occasions. Perhaps he would change his mind, now, as well. Why didn’t the Jews take the opportunity and leave?  Rav Yaakov zt”l answers that the Jews were given a directive from Hashem not to leave their homes until morning. Despite being faced with the opportunity for immediate freedom, they listened to the command of Hashem and waited for the designated moment.

There are times in our lives when we have temptations and rationalizations. As a result, we may feel that “we know better” and do not have to scrupulously follow the laws of the Torah.

That is a big mistake which can lead to negative repercussions.

We only gain when we follow Hashem’s directives.


Parshas Bo: Do You Have the Time? It Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death!

Parshas Bo

Do You Have the Time? It Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death!


“This month shall be for you the beginning of the months.” (Shmos 12:2)

On April 26,1986 there was an accident at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in the Soviet Union. Radiation from the damaged reactor was dispersed in the atmosphere. Over 150,000 square kilometers in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were eventually contaminated.

Natalya and Vladimir Dorman, both highly intelligent professors, were in their home with Evgeniy, their ten-year-old son. With a radioactive cloud hovering over their neighborhood, Natalya said sadly that they may all be dead in three days from the radiation. She said, “We have led meaningless lives. We have little to show for ourselves. Let us become elevated people in our last days on earth.” She took out a Jewish book that a friend had given her, called the The Midrash Says. Slowly, Natalya began reading to her family about Hashem and Creation. Evgeniy was fascinated and was especially moved by the idea that the Torah was the blueprint of the world. He said, “If I could learn Torah, whatever that is, I could understand how this universe works…. How wonderful!” The Dormans did not die. Now that they were aware that they were so spiritually ignorant, they immigrated to Israel where they could learn Torah.  Years later, Evgeniy, known as Yehudah, became an accomplished Torah scholar. (The Grandeur of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

Before the plague of the killing of the first born, Hashem gave the Jewish People a mitzvah. The very first mitzvah that they received, as a nation, was the mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon. The Jewish calendar and all the holidays depend on this mitzvah.

Why is this mitzvah so significant that it was the first one that Hashem gave? Rabbeinu Bachya says that it forms a basis of our faith. When we see the new moon and say a bracha on it, we are testifying to Hashem’s renewal of creation. If Hashem would not constantly renew creation, the world would be destroyed. That is a foundation of belief in Hashem.

The Sforno says that Hashem was sending the Jewish people a very important message with this mitzvah. From that time onwards, the months belonged to them, and the Jews could do whatever they wished with their time. When they had been enslaved, their time had not been their own. They had been at the whim of their masters who could have bothered them at any time – day, or night. Hashem was telling them that now their time was their own.

Rav Avrohom Pam zt”l says, “Only when a person is in control of his time can he be a מְצוּוֶה וְעוֹשֶֹה, one who is commanded to fulfill a mitzvah. Therefore, as a prelude to their new obligations to uphold the Torah, Klal Yisrael was given this specific mitzvah which is the key to all the other mitzvos.”

The Beis Din, the Jewish court, sanctifies the months. However, it is the task of every single Jew to sanctify the gift of life that he has been given through proper utilization of time. Every person is given a predetermined amount of time on earth. Everyone’s responsibility is to make the optimum use of this gift.

In Pirkei Avos (3:1) Akavia the son of Mehalel says that one can be dissuaded from sin if he realizes that he will eventually have to give Hashem justification and reckoning for his deeds. The Vilna Gaon zt”l explains that “justification” refers to the futile attempt one will make to justify his misdeeds. “Reckoning” refers to the reckoning that one will have to make for the time one misused by sinning. Instead of sinning, he could have used that time well, by doing mitzvos. The Pirkei Avos Treasury by Rabbi Moshe Lieber illustrates this with a beautiful parable. A merchant sold defective seeds to farmers. When the seeds yielded no produce, the farmers were very upset. They demanded to be reimbursed for price of the seeds AND for the profit that they would have earned from the fields, had the seeds not been defective.

A Jew knows that his life has a profound purpose, and his soul has descended beneath the Heavenly Throne to this earth to accomplish a mission that only he can fulfill.  He was not placed on this earth just to “kill time”.  Whatever he accomplishes in his life on this earth will be what must sustain his soul for all eternity.

(Rav Pam on the Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith)


(dvar Torah based, in part, on Rav Pam on the Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith)