Good Shabbos Friends;
This week, our Parshat HaShevua is being sponsored by Mutti & Michelle Frankel and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of their son Bentzi’s 11th birthday. To the Frankel family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshat Bo is the one which, for me, annually relates to that crazy tune which played back “in the Old Country” a few decades ago, “Does Your Korbon Pesach Lose It’s Flavor Tied to the Bedpost Overnight?” (Actually, the real title to the song was “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?”)
Over the years, this author has opened with this nutty parody because it cuts right to the chase, to the very heart of our Parsha. That is the Mitzvot of taking the Korbon Pesach, applying the da’am on Jewish doorposts, the going up from Mitzrayim (Egypt) to “…a land flowing with milk and honey …” and to the relevance of Yetziyat Mitzrayim to the National entity (B’nai Yisrael) then, as well as today, and to the relevance of these mitzvot which relate to emunah (belief in) and yirat (fear of) Hashem.
With B’nai Yisrael chomping at the bit for the redemption, for freedom from Mitzri bondage, Hashem directs them to take the Korban Pesach, and to perform Bris Milah on all males.
Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in her sefer “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos (pages 29-30) relates a citing from the Navi Yechezchel (Sefer Yechezchel, perek 16, posukim 6-7 regarding Sefer Shemos, Perek 12, posuk 6):
“I have passed by you and I saw you wallowing in your bloods and I said to you ‘By your bloods you shall live.’ …. and you [were] naked and unclothed.”
Our sages (citing Yalkut Shimoni, Shemos, page 195) explain that “unclothed” means stripped of Mitzvot. Hashem initially determined that Am Yisrael was unworthy of being redeemed. Therefore, he “clothed” them, enabling them to earn the merit to live through the performance of the two Mitzvot. Note that the word “blood” in this posuk is actually plural “bloods”, referring to two Mitzvot that involve blood…. Korban Pesach (the passover Offering) and Bris Milah (circumcision): B’nai Yisrael’s implementation of these two “bloods” was the combined accomplishment that gave them life and sanctioned their salvation. Fittingly these verses from Yechezchel are recited at both the Pesach Seder and at a Bris Milah.
The Targum Yonatan… specifies [Commentary on Sefer Shemos Perek 12, posuk 13] that since circumcision was a requirement for males to participate in the Korban Pesach, both the blood of the korban Pesach and the blood from the Bris Milah were used in that fateful night. Further, regarding the placement of both bloods on the doorposts, Moshe told them (Sefer Shemos Perek 12, posuk 24) “Ushmartem et hadavar bazeh lechok lecha ulevanecha ad olam” (“You shall observe this matter as a statute for you and for your children forever”). From this…, we see that these Mitzvot have eternal significance.
Rebbetzin Smiles continues, in her sefer “Torah Tapestries” on Sefer Shemos, (pages 33-34), by making repeated reference to the term “mesirus nefesh” which is translated as “giving over the soul.” She writes citing a Shabbos HaGadol drosh in 1900 by Rabbi Pinchas Friedman:
Giving over your soul to something means making a statement of total committment. Serving Hashem with “mesirus nefesh” means coming to the deep realization that serving Hashem is all that matters to us. It matters more than life, and from that realization stems the act of serving Hashem “bechol nafshecha” (with all of your soul) (Sefer Devarim, Perek 6, posuk 5) — even if it means giving up that life… We also realize that the service of Hashem matters more than the selfish aspects of our lives.
So what is the sequel today to the “two bloods”? The Pesach Seder is accessable to all, whether at one’s home, with friends or even in the local Chabad House, and Bris Milah is routinely done on all Jewish males on the eighth day (or if complications of birth occur — as soon as the baby’s health permits)?
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah” on our Parshat Bo (pages 161-162, 166, 168-169) provides some possible answers. Firstly, Rav Pliskin cites, renders and comments quoting The Ramban on Sefer Sh’mos Perek 10, posukim 16-17:
After suffering from the plague of locusts,
“Pharoah called to Moshe and Aharon and said to them: ‘Now I beseech you, forgive my sin only this once, and pray to the Almighty that He may only take away this death.'” (Sefer Sh’mos Perek 10, posukim 16-17)
The Ramban comments…: Pharaoh realized that it was only Moshe who could intercede on his belhalf with The Almighty. For this reason the first part of the verse [posuk 17] is written in the singular. But Pharaoh spoke derech mussar (in a polite and tactful manner)… and asked both Moshe and Aharon to pray for him and for this reason the latter half of the verse is written in the plural.
Rabbi Zissel of Kelm [a pillar of the mussar movement]… cited this… Ramban (Chochmah Umussar, vol. 1, page 456) and added that…. we should learn from Pharaoh. …He needed a favor from Moshe, and Aharon was not able to act on his behalf, he still spoke in front of Aharon in a manner that would not imply any slight to Aharon’s honor. This sensitivity should be our guide in dealing with other people.
If Pharaoh, the perpetrator of the enslavement and persecution of Am Yisrael could make his requests in such a polite and tactful way to seek relief from Hashem’s plague, some much more so must one Jew, or one sector of Jews, speak to another in a polite and tactful way, free of coercion, invective or polarization, derisive name-calling or actions, so as to not slight the other’s honor.
Rav Pliskin then makes a point by rendering Sefer Sh’mos Perek 12, posuk 28 citing a comment by Rashi on the posuk:
When you want to have a positive influence on others make certain to model that behavior yourself.
“And the Children of Israel went and did as The Almighty commanded Moshe and Aharon, so they did.” (Sefer Sh’mos Perek 12, posuk 28)
Rashi comments…, “so they did” refers to Moshe and Aharon. They also did as The Almighty commanded about the Paschal lamb [the Korban Pesach]. The Torah tells us this as a lesson to anyone who wants to have a positive influence on others. It is not enough just to tell others to do good deeds. Your own behavior should serve as a model for them to follow. (Hagigai Osher)
Action is much more difficult than words. The best way to influence others is to be the type of person you wish others to be.
Again, Rav Pliskin seems, to this author, to be conveying that negative actions, such as coercion or derisiveness by even a few of one sector toward those of other sectors, achieve the very opposite of presenting a positive influence on others. Such actions make for disunity, divisiveness, polarization and downright hatred within Am Yisrael. It seems to this author that those who claim to hold themselves out as closest to Almighty, must hold themselves to a higher standard, a higher calling. In short, that now somewhat famous “sports-entertainment” quote makes the point: “To talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.”
And by what do we define today as “mesirus nefesh” (giving over the soul) in a context of B’nai Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael? Is it making aliyah? Is it committment to sefless kindness L’Shem Shemayim and V’ahavtah L’rei’echa Kamocha toward one’s fellow Jews, regardless of sector? Is it connecting with and possessing Eretz Yisrael? Is it inserting one’s own body, at risk of billy club beating or arrest, to prevent further expulsions of Jews from Our Land? Or, is it all of the above? Is it even possibly the painless right of ALL of Am Yisrael to vote, whether in national or local elections — 1 Jew = 1 vote, in unity, with ahavat chinom, FOR Jewish life, rather than surrender?
Rav Pliskin renders Sefer Sh’mos. Perek 13, posuk 5 and cites The Chofetz Chayim regarding B’bai Yisrael, Torah and Eretz Yisrael:
“…To give you a land flowing with milk and honey, and you shall do this service.” (Sefer Sh’mos. Perek 13, posuk 5)
The Chofetz Chayim commented on this verse…. The Torah and the Land of Israel are one unit. Their relationship is as the relationship between the body and soul. A soul cannot exist alone in this world, The body alone is just dust from the earth. It needs the soul to give it life. The soul of the Jewish people is the sacred Torah. The body is the Land of Israel… The Land of Israel without the Torah, however, is like a body without a soul. It is just a piece of land. Only when both exist together is there a complete unit.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.