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To Shine and Reflect
By Michael Chessen
The reading of Bo formally introduces the commandments or
We need to here stress the term "formally" because whereas the book of
Genesis does not codify halacha, it does provide us with much
exemplary "halicha", showing us how to best navigate life's path in the
service of the interests of both man and God.
It is most interesting to note however, that when the Torah finally
begins to present detailed commandments, it does not do so in a strictly
legalistic context, but rather in the very midst of one of the Torah's
compelling narratives, namely the Exodus from Egypt.
While the rational behind the commandments is not always given to
limitations of human understanding, explanation of the commandments
involving the celebration of Passover is perhaps a bit more accessible
our reasoning faculties by virtue of their placement in the context of
narrative of the events of the Exodus. Indeed, the very nature of our
Passover Seder is one which invites one's mouth to talk(peh-sach) at
length in speculation of the significance of the Passover commandments,
whose observance demonstrates that our liberation was not to be merely
"free", but to disseminate holiness among the nations as servants of
It is the sanctification of the new moon, however, as the Torah's
first codified commandment, that seems to steal our reading's spotlight.
This is not merely because of "firstness", but because the moon is both
functionally and symbolically linked to the essence of the Jewish people
the only source of light in the blackness of night(and the appearance of
the commandments in turn began to spiritually illuminate the darkness of
Egyptian bondage). In addition, while the Egyptians were plunged into
darkness only because of the absence of light, "all the children of
had light in their dwellings"(Exodus 10:23). While Egypt's worship of
sun made for an "all or nothing" proposition, a choice between the
of the civilized world and utter desolation, the Jewish people's newly
received commandment to search for and sanctify that initial sliver of
light in the darkness led them to merit genuine illumination.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!
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