Thursday, January 29, 2009

Parshah Bo: Reflected!

In an effort to reconnect with the weekly Torah portion, I've started looking through my old posts from when I was reading the portion each week and writing a d'var of sorts. Since I've gone back to school, I spend a great deal of time in texts, but I don't really spend a lot of time relating personally to them so much as I do academically to them. Being a Jewish person mastering in Judaic studies, I think this can be a common thing. It's one thing if you're learning in seminary or yeshivah, and it's an entirely different thing if iyou're studying in a public university, as I am. I prefer to learn in a public university, to be completely honest, but I think I miss out on the spiritual side of learning sometimes. With that said, I bring you some of my comments, with amendations, for Parashat Bo, which I wrote in January 2007 -- a whole two years ago, yikes! I have deleted some comments entirely, and you can read the full original post at the January 2007 link, and additional comments are in bold. There's nothing particularly profound here, so pardon the simplicity of my observations.
In this parshah are the three final plagues: locusts, darkness and, finally, the death of the first born. The Israelites leave the land, matzot and thousands in tow.

+ Ex. 10:14 "Locusts invaded all the land of Mitzrayim ... never before had there been so many, nor will there ever be so many again." I appreciate knowing that never again will a swarm of locusts be brought upon the land. It's comforting. (Still comforting!)

Rashi's comments on this:
And the one [the locust plague] that took place in the days of Joel, about which it is said: “the like of which has never been” (Joel 2:2), [from which] we learn that it was more severe than that of [the plague in the days of] Moses-namely because that one was [composed] of many species [of locusts] that were together: arbeh, yelek, chasil, [and] gazam; but [the locust plague] of Moses consisted of only one species [the arbeh], and its equal never was and never will be.
+ Having never read through the Bible/Torah before, even in my youth (I was raised w/o religion, essentially), I was unfamiliar with some of the plagues. Perhaps the one I was most unfamiliar with is the Ninth Plague -- darkness. The sages surmise that it wasn't physical darkness, such as that brought by a sandstorm or eclipse, but rather that it was "a spiritual or psychological darkness, a deep depression." The Torah reads, "People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was" (Ex. 10:23). The commentary comments that people suffering from depression often lack the energy to move about or to concern themselves with others, focusing instead on themselves. (Deleted sections.)

The commentary reads: "The person who cannot see his neighbor is incapable of spiritual growth, incapable of rising from where he is currently." Amid the Ninth Plague, "People could not see one another." The Catch 22 of depression is that, oftentimes, one feels so absolutely alone that he or she is driven into the depths of darkness where it is most lonely. Yet, if the person is incapable of seeing his or her neighbor to begin with, and within darkness is also unable to see his or her neighbor, what is to release them so that they can attain spiritual growth? (Deleted sections.)

+ I cherish the explanation behind the creation of the Jewish calendar in Ex. 12:2 and why our calendar follows the moon, as opposed to the sun: "Just as G-d showed Noah the rainbow as a sign of the covenant, G-d shows Moses the sliver of the new moon as a symbol of Israel's capacity for constant renewal (Hirsch)." What a brilliant concept and explanation. So I have to wonder if this is why the Jewish calendar has persisted throughout all of these years, through the creation of the Gregorian calendar and the ever-changing calendar that we have today (I mean, if we can move Daylight Savings ..). How is it that we have managed to keep this calendar? It blows my mind at the persistence of our people, our traditions, our livelihood. The covenant, then, must surely be eternal. I see no other explanation for the continuity of the Jewish people! It's quite inspiring and motivating.

+ Ex. 12:24 "You shall observe this as an institution for all time" -- why do we no longer offer up the paschal sacrifice then? I think that my questioning of this at the time was quite juvenile. Tied to Temple worship, sacrificing was replaced by rabbinic Judaism at the Temple's destruction. There is a group -- the Samaritans -- that still fulfills the commandment of the paschal sacrifice, but the thing of it is, they aren't doing it in the Temple, and I'm pretty sure there are some halakhic issues involved. 

(Deleted portion, mostly because I have no idea what I was talking about!)


Of course, if you'd like some more concrete, revealing, fascinating takes on this weeks Torah portion, I suggest you hit up, mostly because it's chock full of interesting bits about the portion. You can also find the portion with Rashi's commentary there, which I always appreciate. You can visit the website for parshah info, too.