Parashat Bo – Never again!

Our Jewish tradition speaks frequently about the gift of memory. The festival of Passover is the prime example of the importance that Judaism places on memory. Every holiday and Sabbath are to be observed as „a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt.“ In this week’s Torah portion we read the words that „this day shall be to you one of remembrance.“ But, what is it that we are supposed to remember?

Passover is a call to our concern for all peoples to sound the cry for freedom for all those in bondage – spiritual bondage, the bondage of poverty, and the bondage of ignorance.

In the Kiddush for the Shabbat, we reiterate that, „the Sabbath is a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt.“ Perhaps the connection lies in the fact that Shabbat is the true day of freedom from the obligations that we must fulfil during the workday-week. And Passover is the festival during which we remember the liberation from slavery to freedom – Without the Exodus, we would have no freedom to enjoy a day of rest at all.

It is remarkable that Jews have never expressed resentment against Egypt for the many years of slavery our ancestors spent there. Is it because that event happened so long ago?

I don’t think so. It is part of our understanding of repairing the world – Tikkun Olam. In other words, it is our way to understand the concept of “dealing with the past”. By that, history is not understood to not repeat mistakes, or to be trapped in the past, but to use history as a “toolbox”. A way to understand which action can lead to which outcome. People did not die in the past for the purpose that we can learn from their death. But we can learn from what lead to their death, and hopefully we can change the pattern before it happens again. History reveals human action in different situations. And as the Torah reveals for us different ways to interact with one another, history does it to.

The slaves in Mitzraim, the victims of the Holocaust in Germany, the many death and victims of the apartheid regime in South Africa are not forgotten, and it is good that we have our many ways to remember them, but we should not only remember them. Instead we need to remember what went wrong and how we can break the pattern that leads to destruction. Let the sentence “Never again” not become an empty phrase, but a true interpretation of the imperative the Torah commands us: “this day shall be to you one of remembrance”. Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Limmud.org) 

Torah Reading Shabbat Bo “Come”

Exodus 10:1-13:16 (Ex 12:1- 12:28)
Plaut p. 409; Hertz p. 235

Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-13, 23
Plaut p. 1492; Hertz p. 944

Our portion is the third of the Exodus narrative in the Torah.

* Our parasha chronicles the departure of the Israelites from Egypt and the events that led up to the former, which began in last week’s portion, Va’era. Indeed, exactly half of the portion–53 of 106 verses by my count–relates the continuing story of the plagues and the negotiations that Moses and Aaron conducted with Pharaoh.

* God sends the plagues of locusts and darkness upon Egypt and forewarns Moses about the final plague, the death of every Egyptian firstborn.

*In the second half God commands Moses and Aaron regarding the Passover festival and

* God enacts the final plague, striking down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt except those of the House of Israel. Pharaoh now allows the Israelites to leave.

BoNever again

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