parashat BO…..”GO”

Bo (parsha)

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Bo (בא — Hebrew is the command form of “go,” or “come,” and is the first word that God speaks in the parshah, in Exodus 10:1) is the fifteenth weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the third in the book of Exodus. It constitutes Exodus 10:1–13:16. Jews in the Diaspora read it the fifteenth Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in January or early February.

The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (painting by David Roberts)

Contents

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[edit] Summary

Moses Speaks to Pharaoh (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

[edit] The last plagues of Egypt

After seven plagues, God continued visiting plagues on Egypt. Moses and Aaron warned Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, or suffer locusts covering the land. (Exodus 10:3–5.) Pharaoh’s courtiers pressed Pharaoh to let the men go, so Pharaoh brought Moses and Aaron back and asked them, “Who are the ones to go?” (Exodus 10:7–8.) Moses insisted that young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds would go, but Pharaoh rejected Moses’ request and expelled Moses and Aaron from his presence. (Exodus 10:9–11.)

The Plague of Locusts (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Moses held his rod over the land, and God drove an east wind to bring locusts to invade all the land. (Exodus 10:12–15.) Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, asked forgiveness, and asked them to plead with God to remove the locusts. (Exodus 10:16–17.) Moses did so, and God brought a west wind to lift the locusts into the Sea of Reeds. (Exodus 10:18–19.) But God stiffened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go. (Exodus 10:20.)

Then God instructed Moses to hold his arm toward the sky to bring darkness upon the land, and Moses did so, but the Israelites enjoyed light. (Exodus 10:21–23.) Pharaoh summoned Moses and told him to go, leaving only the Israelites’ flocks and herds behind, but Moses insisted that none of the Israelites’ livestock be left behind, for “[W]e shall not know with what we are to worship the LORD until we arrive there.” (Exodus 10:24–26.) But God stiffened Pharaoh’s heart, and he expelled Moses saying: “[T]he moment you look upon my face, you shall die.” (Exodus 10:27–28.) Moses warned Pharaoh that God would kill every firstborn in Egypt, but not a dog of the Israelites. (Exodus 11:4–7.) And Moses left Pharaoh in hot anger. (Exodus 11:8.)

Lamentations over the Death of the Firstborn of Egypt (1877 painting by Charles Sprague Pearce)

[edit] The first Passover

God told Moses and Aaron to mark that month as the first of the months of the year. (Exodus 12:1–2.) And God told them to instruct the Israelites in the laws of Passover, and the Israelites obeyed. (Exodus 12:3–28, 43–50; 13:6–10.) (See Commandments below.)

[edit] The plague of the firstborn

In the middle of the night, God struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. (Exodus 12:29.) Pharaoh arose in the night to a loud cry in Egypt, summoned Moses and Aaron, and told them to take the Israelites and go. (Exodus 12:30–32.) So the Israelites took their dough before it was leavened, borrowed silver, gold, and clothing from the Egyptians, and left the Land of Goshen for Sukkot. (Exodus 12:34–37.) God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites to consecrate to God every firstborn man and beast, and Moses did so. (Exodus 13:1–2, 11–15.)

[edit] In inner-biblical interpretation

[edit] Exodus chapters 7–12

The description of the 10 plagues exhibits patterns and progressions, as follows:

Cycle Number Plague Verses Was There

Warning?

Time Warned Introduction Actor Rod? Israelites

Shielded?

Did Pharaoh

Concede?

Who Hardened

Pharaoh’s Heart?

First 1 blood Exodus 7:14–25 yes in the morning לֵךְ אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go to Pharaoh

Aaron yes no no passive voice
2 frogs Exodus 7:26–8:11

(8:1–15 in KJV)

yes unknown בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go in to Pharaoh

Aaron yes no yes passive voice
3 gnats or lice Exodus 8:12–15

(8:16–19 in KJV)

no none none Aaron yes no no passive voice
Second 4 flies or

wild beasts

Exodus 8:16–28

(8:20–32 in KJV)

yes early in the morning וְהִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה

stand before Pharaoh

God no yes yes Pharaoh
5 livestock Exodus 9:1–7 yes unknown בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go in to Pharaoh

God no yes no Pharaoh
6 boils Exodus 9:8–12 no none none Moses no no no God
Third 7 hail Exodus 9:13–35 yes early in the morning וְהִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה

stand before Pharaoh

Moses no yes yes passive voice
8 locusts Exodus 10:1–20 yes unknown בֹּא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה

Go in to Pharaoh

Moses yes no yes God
9 darkness Exodus 10:21–29 no none none Moses yes yes yes God
10 firstborn Exodus 11:1–10;

12:29–32;

yes unknown none God no yes yes God

Psalms 78:44–51 and 105:23–38 each recount differing arrangements of seven plagues. Psalm 78:44–51 recalls plagues of (1) blood, (2) flies, (3) frogs, (4) locusts, (5) hail, (6) livestock, and (7) firstborn, but not plagues of lice, boils, or darkness. Psalm 105:23–38 recalls plagues of (1) darkness, (2) blood, (3) frogs, (4) flies and lice, (5) hail, (6) locusts, and (7) firstborn, but not plagues of livestock or boils.

Haftarah

The haftarah for the parshah is Jeremiah 46:13–28.

[edit] Connection to the Parshah

Both the parshah and the haftarah describe God’s judgment against Egypt. The parshah reports that God told Moses to go (bo’) to Pharaoh (Exodus 10:1); the haftarah reports God’s word that Nebuchadrezzar would come (la-vo’) to Pharaoh. (Jeremiah 46:13.) Both the parshah and the haftarah report a plague of locusts — literal in the parshah, figurative in the haftarah. (Exodus 10:3–20; Jeremiah 46:23.) Both the parshah and the haftarah report God’s punishment of Egypt’s gods. (Exodus 12:12; Jeremiah 46:25.) And both the parshah and the haftarah report God’s ultimate deliverance of the Israelites from their captivity. (Exodus 12:51; 13:3; Jeremiah 46:27.)

A page from a 14th century German Haggadah

[edit] In the liturgy

Reading the Passover Haggadah, in the magid section of the Seder, many Jews remove drops of wine from their cups for each of the ten plagues in Exodus 7:14–12:29. (Menachem Davis. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments, 51. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-57819-064-9. Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, 94–95. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0.)

Also in the magid section, the Haggadah quotes Exodus 12:12 to elucidate the report in Deuteronomy 26:8 that “the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” The Haggadah cites Exodus 12:12 for the proposition that God took the Israelites out of Egypt not through an angel, not through a seraph, not through an agent, but on God’s own. (Davis, at 48–49; Tabory, at 93–94.)

Also in the magid section, the Haggadah quotes Exodus 12:26 to provide the question of the wicked son and quotes Exodus 13:8 to answer him. And shortly thereafter, the Haggadah quotes Exodus 13:14 to answer the simple child and quotes Exodus 13:8 again to answer the child who does not know how to ask. (Davis, at 38–40; Tabory, at 87.)

A page from the Kaufmann Haggadah

Also in the magid section, the Haggadah quotes Exodus 12:27 to answer the question: For what purpose did the Israelites eat the Passover offering at the time of the Temple in Jerusalem? The Haggadah quotes Exodus 12:27 for the proposition that the Israelites did so because God passed over the Israelites’ houses in Egypt. (Davis, at 58; Tabory, at 99.)

In the concluding nirtzah section, the Haggadah quotes the words “it is the Passover sacrifice” from Exodus 12:27 eight times as the refrain of a poem by Eleazar Kallir. (Tabory, at 125–28.) Also in the nirtzah section, the Haggadah quotes the words “it was the middle of the night” from Exodus 12:29 eight times as the refrain of a poem by Yannai. (Tabory, at 122–25.)

Also in the nirtzah section, in a reference to the Israelites’ despoiling of the Egyptians in Exodus 12:36, the Haggadah recounts how the Egyptians could not find their wealth when they arose at night. (Davis, at 108.)

In the magid section, the Haggadah quotes Exodus 12:39–40 to answer the question: For what purpose do Jews eat matzah? The Haggadah quotes Exodus 12:39–40 for the proposition that Jews do so because there was not sufficient time for the Israelites’ dough to become leavened before God redeemed them. (Davis, at 59; Tabory, at 100.)

In the magid section, the Haggadah responds to a question that “one could think” that Exodus 13:5–6 raises — that the obligation to tell the Exodus story begins on the first of the month — and clarifies that the obligation begins when Jews have their maztah and maror in front of them. (Tabory, at 88.)

Also in the magid section, the Haggadah quotes Exodus 13:8 — emphasizing the word “for me” (li) — for the proposition that in every generation, Jews have a duty to regard themselves as though they personally had gone out of Egypt. (Davis, at 60; Tabory, at 100.)

Many Jews recite Exodus 13:1–10 and 13:11–16 two of the four texts contained in the tefillin, either immediately after putting on the tefillin or before removing them, as Jews interpret Exodus 13:9 to make reference to tefillin when it says, “and it shall be for a sign to you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes,” and Exodus 13:16 to make reference to tefillin when it says, “and it shall be for a sign upon your hand, and for frontlets between your eyes.” (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, 10–12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8.)

Much of the language of the leshem yihud prayer before putting on tefillin is drawn from Ramban’s commentary on Exodus 13:11. (Davis Siddur, at 6.)

[edit] Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:

[edit] Biblical

[edit] Early nonrabbinic

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