This week’s Torah portion is Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16).
Bo Summary: Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and say that God will bring locusts if Pharaoh refuses to let the people go so they can worship God. When Pharaoh says only the men can go, Moses holds out his rod over the land of Egypt, and God drives an east wind that brings locusts. The locusts invade all of Egypt in a thick mass. They hide all the land from view, and eat up all the vegetation. Pharaoh hurriedly summons Moses and Aaron and asks them to plead with God to remove the locusts. They do and God creates a west wind that hurls the locusts into the Sea of Reeds. But God strengthens Pharaoh’s heart, and he does not let the Israelites go.
God tells Moses to hold his arm toward the sky to bring darkness upon the land of Egypt. The darkness descends for three days. It is so thick that the Egyptians cannot see one another and cannot move from or in their homes, but the Israelite homes have light. Pharaoh tells Moses that they may all leave to worship the God except their flocks and your herds, but Moses tells Pharaoh that they must bring their livestock, because they will not know which are needed for God until they get there. God strengthens Pharaoh’s heart and he does not agree to let them go. Pharaoh tells Moses to go for the next time he sees him Moses will die. Moses tells Pharaoh he will not see his face again.
God tells Moses that God will bring one more plague and after that Pharaoh shall let them go and drive them out of Egypt. He is to tell the people to borrow objects of silver and gold from their Egyptian neighbors. Moses tells Pharaoh that at midnight God will go forth among the Egyptians and every first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh to the first-born of his slave to the first-born of the cattle, but the Israelites will be unharmed. Then they will know that God makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
God says to Moses and Aaron that this shall be the first of the months of the year for the Israelites. God gives them instructions for preparing the Pascahl lamb, one per household. On the 14th of the month, all the assembled congregation shall slaughter it at twilight, and put some of the blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses. They shall roast it over the fire and eat all of it hurriedly that same night with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs.
That night God will go through the land of Egypt and strike down every first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast and mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt. When God sees the blood on the Israelites’ houses, God will pass over them. They shall remember and celebrate this day as a festival to God for all time. They will eat unleavened bread for seven days and remove leaven from their houses on the first day. They must not work on the first and seventh days, which are sacred occasions. They shall observe The Feast of Unleavened Bread from the evening of the 14th day of the first month until the evening of the 21st day of the month and have no leaven in their houses nor eat anything leavened.
Moses gives the instructions for the Passover offering to the elders of Israel. He tells them that when God goes through Egypt to smite the Egyptians, God will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and God will pass over the Israelites. The Israelites do as God commands.
In the middle of the night God strikes down all the first-born in the land of Egypt. There is a loud cry in Egypt, for every house has someone who dies. Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron in the night and tells them to take the families their flocks and herds and leave Egypt. The people take their unleavened dough and the silver, gold and clothing they had borrowed from the Egyptians. They journey with about 600,000 thousand men with a mixed multitude and much livestock. They bake unleavened cakes of the dough that they had taken out of Egypt.
The Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years. God tells Moses and Aaron the laws for who may eat the Passover offering and that there shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among them. God tells Moses that every first-born man and beast is consecrated to God. Moses tells the people to remember this day on which they went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how God freed them from it with a mighty hand. When God brings them into the promised land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, in this month for seven days they will eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of God. They will explain to their son on that day, “It is because of what God did for me when I went free from Egypt.” They will have a sign on their hand and a reminder on their forehead—in order that the Teaching of God may be in their mouth—that with a mighty hand God freed them from Egypt.
Moses tells the Israelites that when God brings them into the land of Canaan, they shall set the first-borns males – human and animal – apart for God. They are to redeem their first-born sons. When their son asks why, they shall tell him that when Pharaoh refused to let them go, God killed every first-born in the land of Egypt so we sacrifice to God every first-born male, but redeem every first-born son.’
Question of the Week: When you have something important coming up, how do you prepare? Does it help you if someone tells you specifically what to do? In this week’s portion, Moses tells the Israelites how to prepare for the first Passover and then tells them they will have to do this every year. How would you react to instructions like this?
Want to read some commentary? Here are some links: