We are in the middle of the most dramatic, most pivotal, most intense, most action filled, and most consequential Torah portions in the Torah! The portion of Bo is the third section in the book of Exodus. We learn about the eighth, ninth, tenth and final plagues that the Almighty brings down on the Egyptians in order to convince Pharaoh that he must allow Moses and all the Israelites to leave Egypt.
The eighth plague of Arbeh/locusts comes upon Egypt after Moses warns the Egyptians of the coming infestation. “For if you refuse to let My people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts on your territory…”(10:4). With these threatening words from G-d Almighty, Moses and Aaron warn Pharaoh of the coming eighth plague.
The locusts come and lay waste upon Egypt, but G-d again hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and after first granting permission, he changes his mind and refuses Moses’s demands.
The ninth plague of total darkness comes upon Egypt with no warning. After a final confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, G-d announces the ultimate and last plague, the slaying of the first born. In order that the Angel of Death would know which homes were occupied by Jews, Moses commands his kinsmen to place blood from a sacrificial lamb on their doorposts.
The plague occurs, and Pharaoh finally relents. Moses and Aaron lead the Israelites out of Egypt without sufficient time for their bread to rise, and the unleavened dough is baked into Matzah.
The portion ends with the establishment of the Passover holiday, and the command to teach our children what G-d Almighty did for us as a nation on this day. “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of the Eternal…. And you shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Eternal did for me when I went free from Egypt.’”(13:6,8).
Our generation can relate to the ten plagues in a very real and painful way. In my lifetime, the Coronavirus and the illness it has inflicted on us, Covid 19, has brought more untold suffering on so many people throughout the world than any other naturally occurring event. This is truly a plague of Biblical proportion, along with the plagues described in our Torah portion.
We can also celebrate the Divine inspiration that has enabled us to invent the vaccines that virtually halted the death of so many. We also feel G-d’s presence with every Zoom call, meeting, and live stream Shabbat service. The brilliance of the inventors of computer communications enabled us to live our lives with a modicum of normalcy. During the nadir of Covid Ellen and I had the opportunity to “daven” together, and learn Torah with our son, Rabbi Howard Tilman, as he led Shabbat services at Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
KI and OR HADASH OBSERVE INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST
REMEMBRANCE DAY at KI, Friday, January 26 at 7 pm
All of us know of the Mass Murder of 6 million Jews inflicted on our people by the Nazi regime. The Holocaust is the ultimate tragedy for the Jewish people that has been memorialized in many different ways.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 memorializes the victims of the Holocaust, which resulted in the genocide of 6 million Jews, one third of the Jewish people, between 1933 and 1945, an attempt to implement its “final solution” to the Jewish question. January 27 was chosen to commemorate the date when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army in 1945.
The leadership of both congregations, including Rabbi Ben David of KI, and Rabbi Alanna Sklover of Or Hadash, KI’s Cantor Amy Levy and Joshua McHugh, conductor of Makalah, the Or Hadash choir, Hazzan David F. Tilman, conductor of Shir KI, Andrew Senn, organist, and pianist Irina Bakis, will present a service of dramatic readings and meaningful music.
The combined Makalah and Shir KI of 35 singers, Rabbis and Cantor Levy will lead the assembled joint congregation in the traditional Shabbat prayers. Makalah will sing “Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car,” composed by Richard J. Hyman, lyrics by Dan Pagis. Shir KI will present “I Didn’t Speak Out,” composed by Cantor Charles Osborne to a tragic poem by Reverend Martin Niemoeller mourning the absence of assistance offered to Jews by citizens of the world during this tragic era.
All 35 singers will present Erev Shel Shoshanim/Evening of Roses, a beautiful Israeli ballad. All over the world, Jewish communities are singing the prayer “Acheinu/Our Brothers,” a prayer on behalf of the Israeli and American hostages still in captivity in Gaza. This prayer is sung to a powerful, pleading, and mournful melody. We shall proudly introduce Acheinu to our combined congregations on January 26, and we want to continue to sing it until the hostages have been released.
Acheinu kol beit Yisrael
Han’tunim b’tzarah uvashiv’yah,
ha’omdim bein bayam uvein bayabashah
Hamakom y’racheim aleihem,
v’yotzi’eim mitzarah lir’vachah
Umei’afeilah l’orah, umishibud lig’ulah
Hashta ba’agala uvizman kariv
(Our brothers and sisters the whole house of Israel,
who are in distress and captivity, who wander over sea and over land —
May God have mercy on them, and bring them from distress to comfort,
from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption,
now, swiftly, and soon.)
Please join us on Shabbat evening, January 26, for this powerful and important Shabbat evening service and program.
Ellen and I wish you Shabbat Shalom U’m’vorach.