Shabbat Commentary

11/12 Jan : Bo : Shabbat comes in 3:59 pm,  ends  5:09 pm

Parshat Bo has in a sense three signs or symbols that frame the Parsha.

We open the Parsha with God explaining that he gives the plagues as a sign to Pharaoh.   The next verse explains the purpose of the signs – “otot”:  The signs were done so that we and the Egyptians would know that our God was the true God.

In the middle of the Parsha there is a second sign:  God asks us to put blood on our doorposts – perhaps a forerunner of the mitzvah of putting up a mezuzah.   But we read that: we are to dip hyssop in blood and paint the doorposts of our houses so that God should know which houses to skip in macat habechorot – why is this verse strange?  He seemed to have no problem being able to distinguish between Israelite and Egyptian during all other plagues. What now could possibly cause Hashem to need the assistance of a visual sign to distinguish his nation from the Egyptians? Perhaps the solution lies in a closer reading of the text.    The verse states that the blood shall be a sign “for you.” The Mechilta (a Midrashic interpretation of the Bible) states that the sign is for you (the Jews), not for Me (God), and not for others.This suggests that, in fact, God did not need this sign in order to be able to skip over the Jewish homes when smiting the Egyptian firstborn. He ordered the Israelites to perform this act for their own benefit.   So that they would be reminded who they are.

Similarly, the Parsha ends with a final sign — once again, for us:   God says:   “It shall be a sign upon your arm, and for tefillin between your eyes, for with a strong hand, God removed us from Egypt.”

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman




January 10, 2019