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Parashat Bo - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the third Parasha in the Book of Exodus - the portion of Bo. Moses is told to again go and see Pharaoh and demand that the Israelites be freed and allowed to leave Egypt. This Parasha contains the last three plagues - locusts, darkness and the death of the first born, which finally bring Pharaoh and the Egyptians to force the Israelites to leave Egypt on the night of Passover. Before the Exodus, the Israelites are commanded to begin a new calendar, which will begin with the month of Nissan. They are also told of the laws of Passover, the Matzah and the Pesach lamb, and the Parasha ends with the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin, in order to always remember the Exodus from Egypt.

The Hebrew word for month is 'Chodesh'. It comes from the root word of 'Chadash' which means 'new'. So - the first Mitzvah is to look to the new, and the last Mitzvah in this Parasha is to remember the old, the Exodus. Imagine that in the midst of the suffering and oppression of slavery, the Children of Israel are told to look to the new era, not to despair but to hope for new times, to start a new calendar, where they can set their own rules and way of life. At the same time they should remember that the energy to survive and grow comes from that most important event in their history - the Exodus from Egypt.

I believe that this Parasha contains an important message to us who live at a time when it is easy to despair, given all the threats and difficulties our people encounter in fulfilling the dream of a free and peaceful Israel. Renewal is possible - it is the first Mitzvah given to the Israelites in the midst of the long enslavement. But they can never forget that great event of Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, which gave us the right to the Promised Land. This message is a message for our people as a whole as well as to each individual. Each year, each month, each week, and everyday, is an opportunity for renewal. That's why our Jewish calendar marks the three periods of a day (Shachrit, Mincha, Ma'ariv), the Shabbat and the end of Shabbat, the new month ('Chodesh' - new) and of course the new year Rosh Hashanah.

The message for hope and renewal is embedded in the event that made us a nation - the Exodus from Egypt.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram