Assimilation, Exodus and Redemption

In the Torah portion of “Bo” we learn about the 12 plagues of Egypt and the Jewish exodus from that country. I contrast the Jews from that time to the characters in Aaron Applefeld’s books ‘Baddenheim 1939’ who were living at the time of the second world war.

Torah portion “Bo”

3rd Chapter of Shemot

I’ve been wanting to write something Torah related for a long time and haven’t found enough time to do so, so in this post I hope to do a mash-up of the most recent readings of the Torah related to Egypt.

In “bo” we learn of how Moshe and Aharon seek to release the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. They are both sent to Pharaoh at G-d’s request and as a punishment for not letting the Hebrews go, Egypt is punished with a series of plagues. Pharaoh receives warnings for two plagues, but every third plagues comes without warning. For the middle plague of each 3-plague set, Turim points out that when G-d sends Moshe to Pharaoh at the Royal Palace, he uses the term “bo” (come) and when he sends him to Pharaoh at the river he uses the term “lech”. We also find through this portion that G-d hardens Pharaoh’s heart. In previous learning I’ve heard it mentioned that maybe Pharaoh’s heart was such that it could be hardened (insinuating that Pharaoh was of poor character). I’ve also read commentary that states that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in order for him to be stubborn enough for extra punishment to be meted out to Egypt in order to make the Hebrew’s believe in the miracles and return them from their decline.

One of the things we learn in this portion are the 12 plagues. 1 Dam (turning water into blood) 2. Tz’far’da (frogs) 3. C’nim (Lice) 4. Arov (flies/pestilence) 5. Dever (diseased livestock) 6. Sh’cin (boils) 7. Barad (hail) 8. Arbe (locusts) 9. Chosech (darkness) 10. Macat B’corot (firstborn). We see here a phenomenon of HaShem attacking the Egyptians from the bottom up, starting with the water (beneath the level of the land) and frogs and then moving up to lowly landed creatures, moving up onto the land, into the sky and into the Shamayim (heavens). If this is true then why do we end with the first born as the final plague? Because each baby contains something we can only receive from our creator; the Neshama and that is higher than the physical universe which was attacked in the previous plagues. In our morning prayers we say thank you for this with the phrase “Elohai N’shama Sh’natat bi T’horah”. The Neshama is our connection to the creator on a personal level and the city of Chevron is our connection on the national level .Chevron from the word Chever ‘friend’ and the word for ‘to connect’ is L’Chitchaber’ are from the same root. Chevron, the alleged gateway to the Garden of Eden, is our connection to the Shamayim. Chevron is the burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and we learn that Yosef’s bones rise from their burial place in the Nile ready to be returned for rightful burial in Israel where he buried his own father Yaakov.

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