Tag Archives: shevat

Bo, The Stand-off

Bo sig

Haftarah:  Jeremiah 46: 13-28

This week’s haftarah is from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived most of his life in Israel, witnessing both sieges of Jerusalem (597 and 586). In this haftarah, after the fall of the First Temple, he warned the Children of Israel not to ally themselves with Egypt. He prophesied that Egypt would fall to the Babylonians.

In the illustration Egypt {Pharaoh) is being confronted by Jeremiah (Moses). The images Jeremiah uses in his warnings about Egypt are painted in the background. The heifer, gadflies, serpent, locusts, and trees that will be cut down have been painted to look like an Egyptian wall painting. The images the prophet used echo the plagues visited upon the Egyptians in parsahat Bo.

The Egyptians had already experienced 7 plagues. Some were unpleasantly uncomfortable (being overrun with frogs) and some were devastating (pestilence killing the cattle and hail destroying crops). In this week’s parashah, Moshe warned Pharaoh that if he didn’t free the children of Israel there would be even more dire consequences. Three more plagues were to be visited upon the Egyptians. Pharaoh lost patience with Moses. After the plagues of locusts and darkness, he wanted the threats to stop. Bombastically, he proclaimed, “Depart from me, take heed of yourself. Make sure never to see my face again. For on the day you see my face you will die.”  (Exodus 10:28) Moses answered, “You have spoken well. I will not see your face again.” Pharaoh’s threat was answered. He did not ever see Moses’ face again.

Pharaoh had been given opportunities to let the Israelites leave. His pride would not allow Moses to threaten him or speak of a Gd more powerful than he. Pharaoh threatened Moses with death. He would never see Moses again, but he paid a horrific price. His eldest son- and the eldest of all Egyptian families would die. Pharaoh’s decree not to see Moshe’s face again had negative implications and terrible results.

Rabbi Ari Kahn, a rabbi in Israel, points out that children are the focus of the Exodus narrative. Our all-powerful Gd could have freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery with little pain and fuss. For instance, the plague of darkness immobilized the Egyptians for three days while the Israelites had light. Moses could have led Gd’s people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea without their oppressors even knowing what was happening. Why the elaborate choreography of the plagues?

The cries of pain began with overwork and Pharaoh’s decree to kill newborn Jewish babies. Midwives and mothers risked their own lives to save the babies. The lives of children are precious to Jews. In this parashah Gd tells Moses that our children may forget the story of Egypt, slavery, and deliverance. The seder itself will be the reminder. That reminder will ensure our children’s education and the continuity of our people.

We are told to remember the stranger because we were strangers. We are reminded to remember our past and learn from it. We live in challenging times and hopefully if we remember to be kind to those around us we will get through this period without too many bruises.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

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Bo- (or Be Careful What You Wish For)

Bo sig

Jeremiah 46: 13-28

Jeremiah (prophet) c. 655 BCE -586 BCE

Do you remember the short story by W. W. Jacobs called “The Monkey’s Paw”? We read it in school. It’s a chilling story about wishes that are granted by a mysterious monkey’s paw. The wishes are indeed granted but in horrifying ways with devastating results.

Many of us have experienced odd weather in the last few weeks. December arrived without a snowflake in Toronto, Canada where I live. Many people wished for a “White Christmas” or skiing weather for the winter break. Their prayers answered. We had extraordinary snow and ice storms in North America that moved all the way from the mid west to the east coast.

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 Trees and plants encased encased in ice were beautiful,

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but the blackouts and lack of heat and electricity were quite difficult- especially for those people who went without power for 10 days. 

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And of course Israelis and others around the world saw their share of devastating beauty with the snow and ice storms and flash floods they experienced only a month ago.

That brings me to this week’s parsha and haftarah. In parshat Bo,  Moshe as                                      G-d’s mouthpiece warns Pharaoh that if he doesn’t free the children of Israel there will be dire consequences. Three more plagues are visited upon the Egyptians. After the plagues of locusts and darkness Pharaoh loses patience with Moses. He wants the threats and the plagues to stop. Menacingly, Pharaoh proclaims to Moshe , “Go from before me, take heed of yourself. See my face no more- for on the day you see my face you will die.” Moshe  answers, “You have spoken well. I will not see your face again.” Pharaoh’s threat is taken seriously. He will never see Moshe again, but the payoff is that his eldest son- and the eldest of all Egyptians die.  Pharaoh’s wish came true- but it came at a horrific price.

The haftarah is from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived most of his life in Israel, witnessing both sieges of Jerusalem (597 and 586). In this haftarah, after the fall of the First Temple, he warns the Children of Israel not to ally themselves with Egypt. He prophesies that Egypt will fall under the hands of Babylon.  The illustration shows Egypt being confronted by Jeremiah. That is represented by Pharaoh (Egypt) facing Moshe (Jeremiah). The background suggests the wall paintings found on ancient Egyptian frescoes and scroll paintings. The images Jeremiah uses in his warnings about Egypt are painted here- the heifer, gadflies, serpent, locusts, and trees that will be cut down. It is intriguing that the images the prophet uses echo the plagues visited upon the Egyptians.

Pharaoh’s decree not to see Moshe’s face again not only had negative implications, it had terrible results.

We are starting a new year in the Gregorian calendar. And we are entering the month of Shevat- the New Year for trees in the Jewish calendar. Many of us have a tradition of thinking about the coming year and making wishes or resolutions. We often make unnecessary or light-hearted wishes and resolutions. This year may we reflect more seriously on our realities. May we weigh what is important and what is not. Let’s not wish for good things- let’s work towards realizing them. May we achieve a year of health and  peace and integrity. And the world will become a better place through cooperation and respect.

Did you know that you can enlarge the painting at the top of this entry by clicking on it? That way you will see all the detail.                                                                                                                               We would love to read your comments and thoughts – so let us know what you think of this week’s entry. And feel free to share this blog with your friends.

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