Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambamís Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha pítucha or sítuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
Kohen - First Aliya - 11 p'sukim -
SDT The signature of this week's sedra - BO EL PAR'O is a phrase that occurs three times, each as an introduction to one of the Plagues.
Specifically, G-d said to Moshe to "come before Par'o" for the middle plague of each 3-plague set - FROGS, DEVER (animal disease), LOCUST. Baal HaTurim points out that when G-d sends Moshe to the royal palace, He uses the term BO. When He sends him to the river to find Par'o there, He uses the term LEICH.
This time, however, it is with the additional statement that G-d has hardened Par'o's heart so that His wonders will be evident to all, and that all will know Him. Moshe and Aharon warn Par'o of the potential devastation (the description of which is noticeably longer than for other plagues). Par'o's servants (advisors?) pressure Par'o into agreeing to release the People.
Par'o offers Moshe the adults. Moshe's reply (which becomes a Jewish hallmark for the ages - pun intended) is that our religious experiences must include ALL Jews, young and old. (Judaism places a premium on Chinuch.) The continuity of Judaism depends upon the relationship of one generation to the next. Par'o rejects this and expels Moshe and Aaron from his presence.
Locust were sent by G-d to punish Egypt by devouring the produce of the land. This was "measure for measure" punishment for the excessive field and planting work that Par'o imposed on the People of Israel in order to demoralize them and to prevent them from having a normal family life.
Commentaries point out that Par'o and the Egyptians continually "overdid" their oppression and enslavement of the Jews. Even if we were to suggest that punishment is unfair to those who were acting according to G-d's wishes, so to speak, and carrying out His Plan, it is for the excesses that they are being held strictly accountable. "Yes, I told you to rough them up, but I never said anything about beating them so mercilessly." (This does not mean to suggest that people who "play a part in G-d's plans" are not held account- able for their "regular" actions. They are. But there is special emphasis on the excesses. Having the people slave at making bricks is one thing. With- holding straw for the purpose is excessively cruel. Etc.)
On the other hand, the excessive cruelty of the Egyptians is partially responsible, so to speak, for G-d's switching to His Midat HaRachamim in judging the people, from the Midat HaDin which might have kept us in Egypt longer. The original prophecy to Avraham Avinu called for 400 years. Actual time spent in Egypt (not even in slavery) was "only" 210 years. The inclusion of the years from Yitzchak's birth is (can be seen as) a result of the excessive harshness of the Egyptian experience.
[P> 10:21 (9)] Plague #9 - Darkness (just like #3 - Lice and #6 - Boils) is brought without warning.
The thrice repeated pattern is (1) find Par'o at the Nile and deliver the warning, (2) go to his palace and bring the warning "closer to home", and (3) twice-warned is sufficient; he won't let the People go, bring the next plague without additional warning. Addition- ally, there is an escalation in severity from the first to the second to the third plague in each set of 3 plagues.
Darkness, an unusual, unnatural, tangible darkness (not merely the absence of light), descends upon the Egyptians for a paralyzing 3 days (Rashi indicates that it was of a duration of six days). In the Jewish neighborhoods, there is light.
Let's define "natural" darkness as the absence of light. Consistent with the other Makot, the plague of Darkness was not natural. Some of the unnatural qualities of the Darkness of Egypt was that it was substantive, and that lighting a fire would not dispel it. This was a supernatural darkness. Perhaps, a darkness like pre-Creation darkness. Along these lines - but different - is an explanation attributed to the Vilna Gaon. Darkness as well as Light is a creation; it is not just the absence of light. One of the laws of nature that G-d created is that light dispels darkness. During Makat Choshech, nature was turned upside-down and darkness dispelled light.
SDT "Man did not see his fellow, nor did a person rise from his place..." The Chidushei HaRim writes that this is a description of the worse kind of darkness in human life, when a person does not see the suffering of his fellow. Not only does he not extend his hand to help the other, but the ultimate result is the inability of the individual to even help himself. The People of Israel had light throughout their dwellings. May we always be able to see the plight of our fellow Jews and respond with acts of Chesed worthy of our Heritage.
SDT Moshe's words to Par'o are: "We will also take our animals with us, for from them we will take to serve G-d." The plain understanding of the pasuk is that Moshe was referring to korbanot, sacrifices. The Malbim has another beautiful interpretation of Moshe's statement to Par'o. "From the animals we will take lessons in how to serve G-d - from the cat we will learn modesty, from the doves fidelity, from the ants industry and honesty, etc." Had we not received the Torah, which teaches us proper conduct, we would learn these lessons from our animals. (And even with the Torah to teach us, we can see practical examples of its lessons innature.)
Par'o once again refuses, and this time he threatens death (he had Moshe's in mind - G-d "took it" in a different way) if he sees Moshe again. He thus inadvertently prophesies his own death. This is part of the "topsy turvy" aspects of the Exodus.
[P> 11:1 (3)] G-d "reminds" Moshe that there is one more plague (the "real" one; the one that was presented up front, the one mentioned before all of the others) and then Par'o will send the people on their way.
G-d tells Moshe to tell the people to "borrow" things from their neighbors. He says that the people will miraculously feel kindly towards the Jews (even though the Jews are responsible, in the eyes of the Egyptians, for the hard times they have been suffering). G-d even implanted in the eyes of the Egyptians an admiration and respect for Moshe.
Rashi points out the unusual way that G-d instructs Moshe to talk to the people. He says, "please". DABER-NA. Rashi explains that G-d did not want Avraham Avinu to "complain" that the oppression prophesied should come true, but not the promise of leaving Egypt with great wealth. Hence, Moshe, please speak to the people and have them take from the Egyptians...
Targum Onkeles, on the other hand, translates NA as NOW.
[S> 11:9 (2)] G-d says that Par'o will once again refuse even this threat, so that the full course of wonders and miracles will benefit the People of Israel.
SDT One commentator says that Moshe was distraught by the extent to which Par'o went in his refusal to let the People go. Such dedication to wickedness in the face of such devastating punishment was truly disheartening to Moshe. How can the power of evil be so strong? How can someone fight against it and hope to win? G-d's answer was that it was He Who hardened and strengthened Par'o's heart. Left on his own, Par'o would have given in long before. Theoretically, G-d could do this to punish us, but in this case it was for our benefit.
SDT The S'fat Emet marvels at the fact that only G-d would give the power to a wicked person to oppose Him. Why would G-d give Par'o the ability to defy Him? In order to bring about the marvels and wonders of the Exodus, so that the People of Israel shall know beyond doubt that G-d has taken them out of Egypt.
SDT The Torah describes the tranquility of the Jewish area with the statement "a dog didn't even bark". Dogs usually sense death and instinctively react. To highlight the contrast between the Egyptians and the Israelites, the dogs were miraculously silent. In "tribute" to the dogs for their role in bringing greater honor and appreciation to G-d on the night of the Exodus, the Torah rewards them by telling us (elsewhere) to throw our "treif" meat to the dogs. (This applies only when a forbidden food is NOT also forbidden to derive other benefit therefrom - in which case it must be discarded without any benefit whatsoever. Feeding one's own animals, or even animals in the wild is considered HANA'A, benefit.) Thus we have an unusual lesson in HAKARAT HATOV, acknowledging the good that another does for you.
SDT "No dog wagged its tongue" - The Chidushei HaRim sees this as a reference to the terrible sin of Lashon HaRa, gossip and slander. It can be said that Lashon HaRa caused us to be enslaved in Egypt. The Torah tells us that Yosef brought evil reports about his brothers to their father Yaakov.
Their hatred for him resulted in his descent to Egypt and subsequently brought everyone else down there. Secondly, it was the Lashon HaRa of Datan and Aviram who informed on Moshe to Par'o, that he (Moshe) had killed an Egyptian, that put Moshe's life in grave danger. [And gave Moshe the sinking feeling that the People were not worthy of redemption, if there was among them people like Datan and Aviram.] Redemption could not (would not) occur unless we had "straightened out our act". The Midrash tells us that the Jews in Egypt managed to keep the secret of the reason for our "borrowing" Egyptian vessels from our neighbors, for twelve months! A people who can manage not to divulge this information for a whole year has succeeded in purging itself of the temptations of R'chilut & Lashon HaRa, and merits redemption.
[S> 12:1 (20)] G-d commands the setting up of the Jewish calendar [4,A153 12:2]. (Lots on this mitzva often in TT)
He then commands the taking of a lamb or goat for each household (or so). The animal was to be taken on the 10th of Nissan (this rule was for "Pesach Mitzrayim" only, and not for future Pesachs; therefore it is not counted among the mitzvot of the Torah) and held for the 14th of the month, when it was to be slaughtered in the afternoon [5,A55 12:6]. Its blood was to be smeared on the doorposts and lintel (only that first Pesach). The sacrifice is to be eaten on the night of the 15th of Nissan [6,A56 12:8], having been roasted, with matza and maror (this being part of the mitzva "for the generations", but not counted separately among Taryag); that is, neither cooked nor partially done [7,L125 12:9], but roasted whole. No part was to be left over until morning [8,L117 12:10]; any leftovers were to be burned (43,A91 12:10 - not counted from Parshat Bo). It was to be eaten with "belt tied", in haste, ready to leave (these details are for Egyptian Pesach only).
Then G-d will "pass through" Egypt on that night, kill the firstborns, and "pass-over" the Jewish home with the blood-marks. This shall become a holiday for all generations. Matzot are to be eaten for 7 days and on Erev Pesach, Chametz is to be eliminated from our homes [9,A156 12:15]. (Eating Chametz on Pesach is a rejection of membership in Klal Yisrael, hence the punishment of "excision".)
The basis of Yom Tov is set down in 12:16 ó specifically that Melacha is prohibited, as it is on Shabbat, with the exception of "that which is needed for food".
The Oral Law and Rabbinic legislation combine to define that which may be done on Yom Tov. It is far more complicated than the pasuk seems to indicate. Logic cannot always explain the way things work out. For example, picking a fruit from a tree (to eat the fruit on Yom Tov) is not permitted, yet it seems logical that it would be considered permissible because of OCHEL NEFESH (food). And carrying a Siddur to shul (where there is no Eruv) is permitted, even though such a Melacha is not being performed for food. Obviously, we need the Oral Torah to help us out (to say the least).
The source of "sh'mura" matza is in 12:17. The mitzva of eating matza on seder night [10,A158 12:18] is followed by the prohibition of owning of chametz during all of Pesach [11, L200 12:19]. Foods containing chametz are forbidden [12,L198 12:20].
Moshe tells the people that which G-d had previously commanded him to tell them. Here it says: Take a bundle of hyssop (EIZOV), dip it in the blood of the Korban Pesach, and daub it on the lintel and the two doorposts.
Notice this. Not only is going into Eretz Yisrael part of the Promises of Redemption, but in the statement of the laws of Korban Pesach there is reference to "when you will come to the Land..."
SDT The Torah tells us that when G-d will pass through Egypt smiting their first borns, and He will see blood on the doorposts and lintels of the Jewish homes, He will not let the "Destructive Force" (MAL'ACH HAMAVET, Angel of Death) to come to your homes... What the MASHCHIT was doing in Egypt on that night, when the Hagada states that it was G-d Himself. Some explain that the MASHCHIT was in charge, so to speak, of "regularly scheduled deaths". G-d did not allow him to enter a Jewish home that night so the contrast with Egypt would be total.
[P> 12:37 (6)] And so the People of Israel leave Egypt. The People leave in such haste that they take quick-baked breads with them without taking the time to let the dough rise. Approx. 600,000 men, plus women and children leave Egypt, together with many Egyptians who are smart enough to flee with them. Thus ends a 430 year period of exile (according to some opinions, this is the time from the Covenant between the Parts and the Exodus - this is another way of explaining when the "enslavement began"). That night shall be a special night for all of Israel throughout the generations.
[P> 12:43 (8)] The Torah now shifts from relating the story of the Exodus back to the rules for the Korban Pesach. Jews who have "left Judaism" and embraced another religion [13,L128 12:43], non-Jews, even those who are committed to the Seven Noahide Laws [14,L126 12:45] may not eat Korban Pesach. The Korban must be eaten in one place; removing it from its place is forbidden [15,L123 12:46], as is breaking a bone in it [16,L121 12:46]. Only Jews participate. An uncircumcised Jew may not eat of the KP [17,L127 12:48]. A true convert to Judaism is equal to a born- Jew. The People did as commanded.
[S> 12:51 (1)] On the very day in question the multitude left Egypt.
Chametz may not be eaten [19,L197 13:3] nor even owned [20,L201 13:7] on Pesach. It is a mitzva to relate the story of what happened [21,A157 13:8] at the Seder. T'filin also serve as a reminder of the Exodus. Pesach must be in the spring, the time of renewal of nature.
This requires Sanhedrin to add an extra month from time to time to "push" Pesach into the spring. When there is no Sanhedrin, we have a fixed pattern for 13-month years; when we have a Sanhedrin, it has discretionary leeway within specific guidelines.
[P> 13:11 (6)] A first-born-male donkey must be redeemed [22,A81 13:13] (by giving a sheep or its value to a kohen) or destroyed [23,A82 13:13] (a less desirable alternative).
The Torah reiterates the significance of the younger generation asking and receiving answers and explanations about the origin of the Nation.
The T'filin connection is also repeated.
The two final portions of BO (all of Sh'vi'i) join the two first portions of the Shma as the four passages of the Torah contained in each of the two T'filin (written together on a single strip of parchment in the "shel yad" and on four separate parchments inserted into four distinct chambers in the "shel rosh").
The Babylonian army is compared with the countless nature of swarms of locust. Thus Egypt falls to locust again - and there is another connection to the sedra.