YHVH charges Moshe to "go to Pharaoh," and it is this "going" which our Parasha is named after (literal meaning of "bo" is "come"). The approximately three and a half chapters of Parashat Bo encompass a number of central themes. The historical narrative (describing the last plagues, some of the Israelites' preparations to leave Egypt and a few of their moves), is interspersed with themes of redemption, ransom, the Pesach celebration, injunctions to instruct the future generations, and several teaching tools which are to accompany the nation of Yisrael down the road of time. Thus, at the outset of Yisrael's travels, which ultimately will bring them to the
they are also embarking on a journey on becoming a (special) Nation. And while
they had no time to prepare supplies (ref. 12:39), and were carrying almost
only that which the Egyptians had given them (ref. 12:33, 35, 36), YHVH was
starting to do His own equipping of this nascent nation on the road toward its
destiny. Land of Promise
The educational theme is evident right at the beginning, by the reason given for the "signs" performed in
: "That you may tell in the hearing of
your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done…" (10:2). "I
have done" here is denoted by the verb "hit'a'lalti," of the root a.l.l (ayin,
lamed, lamed). It is a multi-faceted verb the meaning of which depends on
context, yet its root also forms one of the words for "infant" or
"babe" - "olal," such as used in Psalms 8:2:
"Out of the mouth of babes and
nursing infants You have ordained strength" (emphasis added). Thus, within
the word for YHVH's "doings" – or miraculous performances in Egypt , which
the Israelites are to tell their children about - is hidden an allusion to these
very children! Egypt
By this time in the narrative, the
has experienced a great deal of devastation, with much more to come. The
severity of the next plague is such that locusts "shall cover the face
[literally "eye"] of the earth, so that no one will be able to see
the earth, and they shall eat the residue
of what is left, which remains… from the hail…" (10: 5, 15). Here we
find a sequel of three synonyms. The repetition serves to heighten the
proportions of the catastrophe. The Hebrew reads: "yeter [ha]*pleta [ha]nish'eret." “Yeter” is that
which remains, as is also seen in 12:10, where the lamb is to be eaten in such
a way that "you shall let none of it remain
until morning" (emphasis added). The term "pleta nish'eret" was
also mentioned by Yoseph, when he disclosed his identity to his brothers,
saying the following: "And Elohim sent me before you to put a remnant
["she'erit," of the same root as "nish'eret" above] in the
land for you and to keep alive for you a great survival [pleta]” (Gen.
45:7, literal translation, italics added). Yoseph’s words, regarding the
survival of his brethren had a prophetic fulfillment, as the “remnant” of the Children
of Yisrael has not only “survived,” but it had actually turned into multitudes, resulting in
Egypt's soil being left (almost)
without residue of remaining life (through the plagues
inflicted by the Elohim of the “remnant”). Therefore, that which was a means of
salvation for the one people (as expressed by Yoseph), turned into deadly
circumstances for the other! Shaul the apostle expresses a similar principle in
the following words: “We are to Elohim the fragrance of Messiah among those who
are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one the aroma of
death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to
life" (2nd Cor. 2:15-16). land of Egypt
Par’oh's now-exasperated servants complain about Moshe, describing him as a "mokesh" – “snare” (10: 7). However, according to Ee’yov (Job) 34:30, it is a Godless king, such as Par’oh, who “should not reign lest the people be ensnared" (emphasis added)! Indeed, no sooner were the locusts removed, when Par’oh's persistence brought about the ninth plague. Total darkness descended upon his land, and his people were ensnared once more. The darkness was so thick that it could be "ya'mesh," that is, "felt" or "touched" (10: 21. See also Genesis 27:12, describing the concern of Ya'acov, who was impersonating his brother, lest his father should discover his real identity by “touching” his smooth skin). In 10:23 we are struck by the contrast between the total darkness prevailing over
and the well-lit dwellings of the Israelites, where the source of Light was the
Almighty Himself. Egypt
It is time now to prepare for the last phase, and for the start of a new one. YHVH declares to Moshe that He is about to strike the final blow on the Egyptians and on their king (ref. 11:1), a fact which Moshe conveys to the latter. This is followed by instructions for the Pesach lamb, whose smeared blood will single out the homes of the Hebrews, while YHVH will be striking the Egyptian homes by killing every firstborn son. Each Hebrew household is to partake of one lamb, or share it with others if the family happens to be too small. The expression used, "according to the number" (12:4), is denoted by a single word - "[beh]mich'sat," rooted in k.s.h (kaf/chaf, samech, hey), meaning "to allocate." The root employed for this term is also used for the standard form of the verb to “cover.” Thus, even before an explanation is given for the procedure of choosing, slaughtering, eating the lamb and applying its blood, the text points subtly to the Lamb which has been ‘allocated’ and designated to be slain from the foundations of the world (ref. Rev. 13:8), Whose blood was given for the covering of sin.
The blood over the Hebrews’ doors enabled YHVH to steer clear of their homes by passing over - "pasach" (ref. 12:23) - a verb rooted in p.s.ch (pey, samech, chet) and means to “pass" or "skip." Yishayahu (Isaiah) 31:5 says: "Like flying birds, so YHVH of Hosts will protect
He will pass over ["pasach"]
and rescue it.” Hence, a lame or limping person is a “piseh’ach” (e.g. 2nd Sam. 9:13; 1Kings 18:21). This
verb gives the feast its title of Pesach. Jerusalem
We have already noted that our Parasha is 'didactically inclined,' with 12:14-22 being devoted to instructions pertaining to the future life of the Israelites, once planted in their own land. This passage is fraught with distinct words and terms. We already examined the notion of "allocating" in verse
4. In verse 6 we note that
the lamb was to be "kept"
(from the 10th of the first month, until the 14th). But
rather than a verb, a noun is used there - "mishmoret," of
the root sh.m.r (shin, mem, resh). In verse 17 the Children of Yisrael are
instructed "to observe the Feast of Matzot." "Observe" is again
from the same root, meaning “to keep, or guard,” while in verse 24 the
Israelites are told, "to observe," literally "keep," what
now becomes an ordinance to be practiced upon entering the Land. In the future,
the night commemorating the exodus from will become a "night of solemn
observance (or vigil)" - "shimurim" (verse 42), and again in 13:10, "You shall keep this ordinance in its season from
year to year." Egypt
The lamb was to be slaughtered on the 14th day of the month, "at twilight" (12:6), which is "ben arba'yim.” “Arbayim" is the plural form of “erev” (evening), the all-familiar term we have been discussing over and again. Most interpreters and commentators believe that "between the evenings" (its literal meaning) denotes "twilight." However, there exists a minority view that supports the literal “between the evenings,” making that expression a reference to an entire day, between the 14th and the 15th. The meat was to be eaten with bitter herbs, “maror,” and unleavened bread called "matza," which are thin wafer-like crackers baked without yeast (12:8).
The root m.tz.h (mem, tzadi, hey) means “to drain out” to the very last drop of water (e.g. Jud. 6:38), since the leavening agents require liquid in order to be activated. The bitter herbs most likely point to the "bitterness" experienced by the Children of Yisrael in
Sh’mot (Exodus) says: "And
they made their lives bitter with hard bondage--in mortar, in brick, and
in all manner of service in the field" (italics added). Egypt
In 12:14 we encounter for the first time one of the words for "feast" - "chag" (although in verb form it appeared already in Ex. 5:1). Since the annual reoccurrence of the Feasts makes them cyclical, “chag” is related to the verb "choog" which describes a circle (Job 22:14; Pro. 8:27; Is. 40:22). By its very nature this word implies not only a (set) time, but also a place - a “circle.” Another such 'multi-dimensional' word is holy "convocation," also appearing here for the first time (v. 16). This "holy convocation" or "assembly," is "mikra kodesh." The root k.r.a (kof, resh, alef) means “to call,” even though the "convocation" - the assembling - is made up of people. The "mikra kodesh" (i.e. the congregation) is designated, therefore, by its calling, but is also connected to a place. In Yishayahu (Isaiah) 4:5, for example, we read: "Then YHVH will create over the whole area of
and over "mikra'eh'a"
("her assemblies") a cloud by day…." These “holy convocations”
are, of course, to be also special times. The “calling,” then, proves to be the
common ‘ingredient’ bonding the people, their place of gathering and the times
wherein they are to convene, indicating that Time, Place and People are joined
in YHVH's economy. This concept will surface again in future Parashot. Mount
In their Egyptian Pesach, the Israelites were promised that, "the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses... And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (12:13). This "seeing" (of the blood) brings to mind another "seeing" on the part of YHVH, as was stated by Avraham, who on the road to Mount Moriah responded to his son's inquiry regarding the offering, saying: “YHVH will see (literally) for himself the lamb for the offering" (Gen. 22:8 italics added). And although (at that time) it was a ram that was provided, the beginning of the fulfillment of those words is taking place now, in Egypt, later to have a further fulfillment, to an even greater degree, by another Lamb. One more connection to the Lamb of Elohim is found in 12:46, where it says that none of the bones of the lamb are to be broken, an injunction which finds its fulfillment in Yochanan (John) 19:33.
The Egyptians are finally persuaded to send the Israelites off. According to 12:33, "they pressed” them to leave. However, "pressed" in this case is from the root "strong" - "chazak" - which makes it a fulfillment of 6:1 “…For with a strong hand [Par’oh] will let them go, and with a strong
will drive them out of his land." Another fulfillment,
this time of 3:22, is taking place here in 12:35-36, when the Egyptians consent
to give their former slaves gold, silver and garments. This is described as the
“spoiling of the Egyptians," which, is also a fulfillment of YHVH’s
promise to Avraham concerning
the Egyptian Diaspora, out of which his seed was to "come out with great
wealth" (Gen. 15:14). "Spoiled" is "(va)yinatz'lu," of the root n.tz.l
(noon, tzadi, lamed), which most frequently means to "survive, save,
rescue, or deliver."
In fact, it came up in Parashat Sh’mot (5:23) when Moshe complained to
YHVH on behalf of his people, saying, “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in
Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all
(italics added)." But now not only are they being "delivered,"
but they are also "procuring"
gifts (the form of n.tz.l as it is used here) from their subjugators. The fact
that all of these terms are rooted in the same three letters lends an extra
emphasis, or 'twist,' to the rescue story and sheds light on the protagonists
(YHVH as the "savior," and on those who are being "saved").
The gold and silver will no doubt serve later for the making of the Mishkan’s
articles. But even beforehand, in Shmot (Exodus) 33:6, where the Israelites remove their jewelry, the verb used is
"(va)yitna'tzlu" (again of
the root of n.tz.l). The unusual usage of this word highlights the origin of these
articles. Finally, Yeshua, too, "divested," "disarmed" or
"wrested" the principalities from their powers, after His victory (Col. 2:15).
a "mixed multitude" (“erev rav” – literally “a great mixture”)
goes out with the Sons of Yisrael. After
“arbayim” (“twilight”) above (with is root e.r.v. - "evening" – being
a "mixed" state, 12:38), “mixture”
is now being applied to the nature of the "multitude.” Egypt
When the time allotted for their sojourn in
ends, "on this very
day" (12:41) YHVH's people, who had been waiting for so long, are suddenly
forced to hurry and leave. We recall the case of Yoseph, who was also made to
hurry out of prison when the time ordained for his sufferings had fully expired
(ref. Gen. 41:1, 14). In both cases, the word used is "miketz"
("at the end of"). When it is time for change, there is not
one moment to spare. Egypt
The latter part of the Parasha, 13:1-16, is devoted to further instructions. First and foremost among them is the "setting apart" of the firstborn: "…every one who opens the womb among the sons of
to me"(13:2), declares YHVH. In verse 15 He elaborates on this, saying
that since He "killed all the firstborn in the Israel …
therefore [the Israelite are to] sanctify to YHVH all males that open the womb,
and all the firstborn of [their] sons [are to be] redeemed/ransomed." In
last week's Parasha we saw how "ransoming" separated the Israelites
from the Egyptians (8:23), even before the smiting of land of Egypt 's
firstborn. The notion of "ransom" (“p'dut”) becomes even more evident
when blood separates the Egyptian firstborn from those of Yisrael's. The
ultimate ransom price for purchasing 'Yisrael the Firstborn' thousands of years
later was, and still is, Messiah's blood. Egypt
Among the "firsts" in this Parasha, there is a first reference to a name of a month - the "month of Aviv" (13:4). The literal meaning of "aviv," which became synonymous with "spring," is a stalk of grain whose ears are still green. This word indicates the very beginning of growth, before the fruit or grain has had time to develop (e.g. Job 8:12; Song of Solomon 6:11), and is perhaps (also) a reflection on the condition of the Nation in formation. The fact that the noun “aviv” starts with alef, bet, the first two letters of the Alphabet, letters that also form the word “av” - “father,” highlights its “firstness.”
Twice in this portion of instructions we encounter references to the "signs" that are to be on one's hand and forehead (13:9, 16). These "signs" are to be for the purpose of remembering and commemorating the "strong hand with which YHVH brought you out of
" (v. 16), and, "so
that the Torah of YHVH may be in your mouth" (v. 9). In both places the
mention of these "signs" is related to the teaching of the
generations to come. In addition, in keeping with the pedagogical message
included in the Parasha, several possible approaches are offered to a variety
of future inquirers about the Pesach practices and its teachings. In 12:26-27
we find: "When your children say to you, ‘what does this service mean to
you…?’ you shall say, ‘it is the sacrifice to YHVH’s Passover’…" In 13:14,
"When in time to come your son asks, saying, 'what is this?' You shall say
to him, 'by strength of hand YHVH brought us out of Egypt ’…" And in 13:8,
"You shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'it is because of this YHVH
did for me when I came out of Egypt .’"
All three of these are echoed in the traditional Pesach Haggada read on the
Passover eve ceremony called the Seder. There they are called the “Four – since
another one is added based on Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 6:20 – Questions,” and are posed by the youngest
member of the family. Egypt
Lastly, in order to partake of the Pesach, a man was required to be circumcised (ref. 12:48), a fact which connects the Paschal lamb to circumcision. It points clearly to the renewal of the Covenant that was established with Avraham and his descendants. Interestingly, in Parashat Sh'mot (4:22) YHVH declares that Yisrael is His “firstborn,” and in the same breath tells Moshe that because Par’oh will refuse to let His firstborn go, He will kill his firstborn (4:22,23). What immediately follows is Moshe’s wife urge to circumcise her son, calling him "a groom of blood" (4:24-26). This act and choice of vocabulary reinforce the connection of the Paschal lamb's blood to the blood of circumcision. Our "Groom of Blood" who is Yeshua, is also the epitome of the Pesach offering. His Bbood has rendered us the "circumcision who worships Elohim in the Spirit" (Phil. 3:3).
* Ha denotes the definite article in Hebrew.
 The Chumash Shmot With The Commentary Daat Mikrah, Pub. Mossad Harav Kook, Jm. 1991.
Hebrew Tools for Everyday Use
This time we will take the verb “to come” and see how it is used in in third person singular (both masculine and feminine). Notice that in Hebrew that this verb stays the same in the present and past tense. Above we encountered “remnant” “nish’ar”. In Modern Hebrew this is the verb “for “staying” or “remaining”. You will find out how in Hebrew when the subject of the sentence is in plural so is the verb that follows. We will also apply the very common k.r.a (call, read) to second person, singular masculine and to plural feminine, and end with “come” once more, but this time we will use it in the same way that it is used in the Parasha (such as in “come to Pharaoh”).
The boy is coming/came and stayed
Ha’yeled ba venish’ar
The girl is came/is coming and staying
Ha’yalda ba’a venish’e’ret
(Notice that this verb does not change whether it is in the past or present form)
Did you call me (addressing a male)?
Did you (plural) call us (addressing females)?
Come (masculine) in the spring
Come (feminine) in the spring
Now that you know the words “bo” and “bo’ee”, see if you can detect “bo’ee” in the song “Bo’ee Kala” (emphasis on the last syllable) which means “Come, (oh) Bride”.
The music was composed to a poem by renowned Hebrew poetess, Leah Goldberg (1911-1970).