July 23, 2024 ~ Sh PINEHAS. M SABA.

Shabbat Bo - שבת בא


The Plagues

והרביתי את אתתי ואת מופתי בארץ מצרים - When the Israelites leave Egypt, God promises that they would be accompanied by major "signs," and "wonders" (Exodus 7:3). Upon reading Exodus 7-12, one tallies a total of ten plagues: (1) דם- Blood, (2) צפרדע - Frogs, (3) כנים - Lice, (4) ערוב - Swarms, (5) דבר - Livestock, (6) שחין - Boils, (7) ברד - Hail, (8) ארבה - Locusts, (9) חושך - Darkness, and (10) בכורות - First Born. Although the Exodus source is the most well-known version of these events, it is important to note that two other sources in Tanakh provide poetic recollections of the plague story; Psalms 78 and Psalms 105. In Psalms 78, there are only seven plagues (omitting 3, 6, and 9) in the following order: 1, 4, 2, 8, 7, 5, 10. In Psalms 105, there are also only seven plagues, but in the following order: 9, 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10. In both Psalm accounts, the retelling of past events differ in detail from the narrative of the Torah; in terms of number of plagues and sequence. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 1/12/19.

Real Freedom

שלח עמי ויעבדני - Throughout history, humanity has fought hard to achieve the ideal of freedom. What exactly is freedom? One definition is "the state of not being enslaved," while another is "the power to act as one wishes without restraint." One lesson that most civilizations learned over time is that "there is no freedom without the law." Part of living in a functioning society is that everyone is subject to a common set of ground rules. When Moses requests to "free" the Israelites, he relays God's message to release the nation "to worship Me" (שלח עמי ויעבדני). The primary intention for Israel's liberation is not to grant them more free time to pursue their hobbies, but rather, simply to change their status from Pharaoh's subjects to God's. Instead of being distracted by the will of a fallible human king who enslaves us with severe labor, now Israel is "free" to focus its efforts on service to God alone and to observe the teachings of the Torah. Beth Torah Bulletin, April 20, 2019.

Pharaoh's Decision

ויתחזק ה׳ את לב פרעה - Each of us have the ability to shape the course of our lives by the decisions we make. At times, however, if we find our past decisions to be wrong, we must find the courage to fix our mistakes rather than remain on a flawed trajectory. We learn this lesson from the story of Pharaoh. When Moses first approaches Pharaoh with a modest request of a three day holiday to worship God, Pharaoh decides to humiliate Moses by penalizing the Israelites. Plague after plague, however, as the suffering increases, Pharaoh's arrogance prevents him from rescinding his original decision. The Torah notes that "God hardens Pharaoh's heart" only after the later plagues of boils, locusts, and darkness, but before these plagues, no divine intervention is noted and Pharaoh seems to be acting on his own. It all starts as a single poor decision, but as Pharaoh's heart gets harder and harder, he finds himself in a hole that gets deeper and deeper. Beth Torah Bulletin, January 20, 2018.


בִּנְעָרֵ֥ינוּ וּבִזְקֵנֵ֖ינוּ נֵלֵ֑ךְ בְּבָנֵ֨ינוּ וּבִבְנוֹתֵ֜נוּ - Every day as I would enter the JCC in Scottsdale, Arizona, I would pass the cornerstone of the building which contained the words “Bin’arenu u’Bizkenenu Nelekh Bebaneinu uBibnotenu” from Exodus 10:9. These words reflected an important value of this institution; of being a welcoming place for all members of the community; young and old, male and female. Whenever I used to have free time during dental school, I would simply go to JCC and see people of all ages; young and old, men and women. It was truly a remarkable place and a much needed place for this community. When Pharaoh asks Moses “who will be going with you [to worship]?” Moses replies “we will all go; young and old, male and female, sheep and cattle.” What is significant in this is that Moses did not accept Pharaoh’s proposal of just taking only the adult men. Moses teaches us that in order to be a healthy and complete community, it must include everyone and not just one subsection of the people. Beth Torah Bulletin, February 1, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SIGAH

For Shabbat Bo (Exodus 10:1- 13:16), the third perasha of Exodus, prayers are conducted in Maqam SIGAH (Persian: "third") according to at least 10 sources. When the Egyptians were afflicted with three days of darkness, the Israelites had 'light' in their dwellings. Commentators note that this is the light of the Torah. SIGAH relates to the Torah, because it is the maqam applied for chanting the Torah. Other opinions for this Shabbat include Maqam RAST or NAWAH (similar to Shabbat Hagadol). PIZMON SEFER TORAH: Mi Yemallel (page 361); a song about the ten plagues and the festival of Pesah. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.