Parshas Bo: Leaving, and Living, With Meaning

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Bo, after two hundred and ten years in Egypt, and one hundred and sixteen years of slavery, the long-awaited redemption is finally at hand.  Leaving a decimated, destroyed, and defeated Egypt behind, the newly-freed Israelites march to a hopeful future. 

The yomtov that commemorates our journey to freedom in the month of Nissan is the Festival of Spring, Chag ha’Pesach, which is celebrated anew each year.  For each year, each and every person – in every generation – must see himself as if he has left the bondage of Egypt behind. 

And it will be, when Hashem will bring you to the Land… אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לָתֶת לָךְ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב, וּדְבָשׁ; וְעָבַדְתָּ אֶת-הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה, which He swore to your fathers to give to you, a land flowing with milk and honey, then you shall observe this service in this month.  For seven days you shall eat matzos, and on the seventh day, a festival to Hashem (Shemos 13:5-6). 

וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר:  בַּעֲבוּר זֶה, עָשָׂה ה’ לִי, בְּצֵאתִי, מִמִּצְרָיִם – And you shall tell your son on that day, saying: It is because of this that Hashem acted for me when I came out from Egypt (13:8).

Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch writes, “Pesach is the festival that is to mark the upbuilding of the Jewish home, an upbuilding to be continually renewed on the basis of the redemption from Egypt.  Here, in commanding us in regard to the festival, the Torah also delineates the task of Jewish education:

“Not through unthinking habit, nor through mere moralizing, should our children be led to faithfully observe the Torah’s commandments; those methods will not suffice.  Rather, we must show them the way by our own enthusiastic example, and at the same time awaken their hearts and minds by explaining to them what it is we are doing, so that they learn to practice the mitzvos with intelligence and awareness, and become excited about and fascinated by the task of Judaism. 

“בַּעֲבוּר זֶה – (And you will tell your son that) because of these practices, and because of all such practices that you see me perform (Hashem did for me).  When I went forth from slavery to freedom, my sole contribution toward the attainment of freedom was my commitment to observe these mitzvos as an obligation for all time.  This commitment was the sole reason for my deliverance, and my fulfillment of the commitment was the sole purpose of my redemption.  Everything else, G-d did for me.  From this you can understand the incalculable significance of these practices.  It is on them that our whole existence, based on G-d and dependent upon Him, rests.”

The words of Rav Hirsch zt’l, penned in Germany in the mid 1800’s, ring true still today, almost two hundred years later. 

It is because of our dedication to mitzvos, because of our faith in G-d and His Torah, because of our fulfillment of the commandments, that He redeems us. 

This is a foundation that must be transmitted with passion, force and depth to the next generation.  We must perform the mitzvos with enthusiasm, we must be ever cognizant of the examples we set, we must practice and live Yahadus with intelligence and awareness, we must retain our love for Him and faith in Him, despite the changing of the times, the shifting of the winds, and the turbulence of the world.

The constant in avodas Hashem must be faith, belief and meaningful, dedicated practice.  So that when we come to the Land, and our children ask us, “What is this work for you?” (12:26) we will be able to show, by example, that this is not work – it is, rather, a labor of love

The eldest daughter of Rav Moshe Twersky HY”D, Mrs. Rivkah Walder, shared the following sentiment: One time her in-laws asked her to relate all the fantastic insights that must have been said at her family’s Seder.  She disappointed them, though, when she said that nothing of the sort took place.  “So what was there, then?” they asked.  “I can’t explain it,” she replied.  “It was the kedusha (holiness) with which my father makes the beracha of ga’al Yisrael, the simcha in his heseibah (leaning), eating his heiligeh (holy) matzos… he was like true royalty… it was something that we could really feel.”  She added that Rav Twersky once exclaimed, “This matzah is the best recipe!”

R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches that “Recounting yetzias Mitzrayim is not merely telling a story.  The imperative of and you shall tell you son has a deeper meaning.  It means that the son should be the sefer (book) upon which the father writes.  The foremost task of a father is to be a sofer (scribe), to transform his son into a book upon which he writes indelibly, a book that will survive him and be imparted to succeeding generations. 

“The appellation ‘the people of the book’ does not signify a nation that reads books; it is a nation whose very being is a book.  The mitzvah of sippur yetzias Mitzrayim means inscribing one’s entire religious consciousness upon the next generation until that generation is ready to perform the same task of sippur at the Seder table with their own children.”

May we be zocheh to learn and live, practice and teach, with deveikus and passion, with depth and meaning, with precision and faith, until the final redemption, may it be soon and in our time, amen v’amen

,בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום


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