Parshas Bo: The Connection Between Geula and Tefillin

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Bo, after two hundred and ten years in Egypt, the Bnei Yisrael leave the shackles of shibud Mitzrayim behind and march forward to a hopeful future.  After the Ten Plagues, many miracles, signs and wonders, and after finally realizing that his nation, kingdom and land were doomed, Pharaoh sends his former slaves free.  The parsha outlines the final three plagues, as well as many mitzvos regarding Rosh Chodesh, the Korban Pesach and leil Yetzias Mitzrayim.

And it was, during the tenth and final plague, Makkas Bechoros, וַיָּ֨קׇם פַּרְעֹ֜ה לַ֗יְלָה ה֤וּא וְכׇל־עֲבָדָיו֙ וְכׇל־מִצְרַ֔יִם וַתְּהִ֛י צְעָקָ֥ה גְדֹלָ֖ה בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם כִּֽי־אֵ֣ין בַּ֔יִת אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֵֽין־שָׁ֖ם מֵֽת  And Pharaoh arose at night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great outcry in Egypt, for there was no house in which there was no dead; וַיִּקְרָא֩ לְמשֶׁ֨ה וּלְאַֽהֲרֹ֜ן לַ֗יְלָה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ ק֤וּמוּ צּאוּ֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ עַמִּ֔י גַּם־אַתֶּ֖ם גַּם־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּלְכ֛וּ עִבְד֥וּ אֶת־הכְּדַבֶּרְכֶֽםSo he called for Moshe and Aaron at night, and he said, “Get up and get out from among my people, also you, also the children of Israel, and go, worship the L-rd as you have spoken”… לֵ֣יל שִׁמֻּרִ֥ים הוּא֙ לַֽהלְהֽוֹצִיאָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם הֽוּא־הַלַּ֤יְלָה הַזֶּה֙ לַֽהשִׁמֻּרִ֛ים לְכָל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְדֹֽרֹתָֽםIt is a night of anticipation for Hashem, to take them out of the land of Egypt; this night is to Hashem, guarding all the children of Israel throughout their generations (Shemos 12:30-31,42).

In a parsha full of the narrative of our miraculous redemption from Egypt, the end of the parsha seems to be unrelated to the topic of geula.  The pasukim command us: וְהָיָה֩ לְךָ֨ לְא֜וֹת עַל־יָֽדְךָ֗ וּלְזִכָּרוֹן֙ בֵּ֣ין עֵינֶ֔יךָ לְמַ֗עַן תִּֽהְיֶ֛ה תּוֹרַ֥ת הבְּפִ֑יךָ כִּ֚י בְּיָ֣ד חֲזָקָ֔ה הוֹצִֽאֲךָ֥ המִמִּצְרָֽיִםAnd it shall be to you as a sign upon your hand and as a remembrance between your eyes, in order that the law of Hashem shall be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the Lord took you out of Egyptוְהָיָ֤ה לְאוֹת֙ עַל־יָ֣דְכָ֔ה וּלְטֽוֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֣ין עֵינֶ֑יךָ כִּ֚י בְּחֹ֣זֶק יָ֔ד הֽוֹצִיאָ֥נוּ המִמִּצְרָֽיִםAnd it shall be for a sign upon your hand and for totafos between your eyes, for with a mighty hand did Hashem take us out of Egypt (Shemos 13:9,16).   

With the mitzvah of tefillin, Parshas Bo ends.  What is the connection between the mitzvah of tefillin and the geula, redemption?  And what does the mitzvah of tefillin tell us of, not only geulas Mitzrayim, but our final redemption, for which we continue to hope and pray.

HaRav Avraham Yaakov Pam zt’l (1913-2001, Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivas Torah Vodaas) teaches, “The concluding pasuk of Parshas Bo is one of the sources in the Torah for the mitzvah to wear tefillin on one’s arm and head.  The Mishnah Berurah (40:3) quotes the opinion of the Magen Avraham (44:5) that, if a person’s tefillin falls on the ground without its protective box, the minhag (tradition) is that he should fast as an atonement.  If he finds it very difficult to fast due to poor health, he may redeem the fast with tzedakah.  If this happens to a talmid chacham (Torah scholar), he, too, should not fast because it will detract from his intensive Torah study.  Instead, he should redeem the fast with tzedakah and additional Torah study.

“The great Kedusha Levi, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1809), once saw a simple, ignorant Jew accidentally drop his tefillin on the ground.  The man immediately bent down and picked up the tefillin, carefully wiping off the dirt.  He then reverently kissed the tefillin and put them back into their zekkel (bag).  Reb Levi Yitzchok, the great defender of the Jews, lifted his eyes heavenward and, in his classic manner, addressed Hashem: ‘Master of the World!  Look down from Heaven and see how a simple Jew honors and cherishes the mitzvah of tefillin!

“‘Why don’t You, too, lift up Your downtrodden tefillin, Your nation Israel, about whom it is written: וּמִי֙ כְּעַמְּךָ֣ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל גּ֥וֹי אֶחָ֖ד בָּאָ֑רֶץ, and who is like Your nation Israel, a unique nation on earth? (I Divrei HaYamim 17:21).  [The Gemara, Berachos 6a, teaches that Hashem lays teillin, and that this verse is contained in the tefillin of Hashem, keviyachol.]  Your ‘tefillin’, Your holy nation Israel, have been lying on the ground in disgrace and in shame for eighteen centuries!  They are scorned, ridiculed, and abused by the nations of the world!  Why don’t You pick them up and hug them and kiss them and remove the mud and grime of sin that has accumulated upon them after so many centuries in galus (exile)?  Why should Your tefillin be treated worse than the tefillin of Your people?’

Parshas Bo describes, among other things, the exodus from Egypt, the commandments of the Korban Pesach, and the mitzvah of tefillin.  May we soon experience the Great Day when Hashem will fulfill the request of the Kedushas Levi by picking up His tefillin – His great nation Israel – and redeeming His people from this long and tragic exile that they have endured for so long.  May it happen speedily and in our days” (A Vort from Rav Pam, Artscroll Mesorah, p.95-96).

Parshas Bo outlines the great redemption from Egypt, an event which we remember every day in our tefillos, and commemorate once a year on Chag ha’Pesach.  As the pasukim teach, the concluding mitzvah of the parsha serves as a reminder to us that Hashem redeemed us from Egypt.  However, it is also a foreshadowing of the future redemption, when in the long awaited end of days, Hashem will ‘pick up His tefillin, His nation Israel’, from the filth and travails of our bitter exile.

His whole life, Reb Levi Yitzchok awaited the coming of the Messiah.  It happened that the tena’im (terms of engagement) were written for his granddaughter.  Reb Levi Yitzchok examined the document.  He read it, tore it up and then shouted, “You don’t believe in the coming of the Messiah!  You wrote that during this year, you will still be living in exile!”  He then ordered that the following be added to the document: “The wedding will take place, b’ezras Hashem, with good fortune, in the Holy City of Jerusalem.  If, G-d forbid, the righteous Messiah does not come this year, then the wedding will be held in the town of Berditchev.” (Loving and Beloved, by S. Raz, Menorah Books, p.13).

May we merit that in reward for our adherence to, and love for, the mitzvah of tefillin, Hashem will miraculously redeem us from this exile, as He redeemed our forefathers from Egypt.  May it be soon and in our days.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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