Weekly Torah Commentary — Bo January 27, 2012

In this week’s Torah portion the final three plagues are recorded and each one of them has something to do with darkness.  The Torah says that the swarm of locusts was so thick that the land was darkened. (10:15)  Can you just imagine living through that?

It is interesting to note that this is the first time that Pharaoh’s servants rebuke him (10:7).  When Moshe and Aaron warn Pharaoh of the coming plague of locusts, Pharaoh’s servants appeal to Pharaoh, asking him if does not yet realize that Egypt is being destroyed?  They urge him to let the people go, but Pharaoh remains defiant.

What he does do, however, is that for the first time he acknowledges he has sinned but he does NOT show true repentance.   For he asks that Moshe “forgive me just this time…” (10:16).  True repentance begins with acknowledgement of wrong doing but follows that with sincere regret and a resolve not to repeat the offense.  Pharaoh’s acknowledgment is a good start but he fails to follow through with regret and resolve to change his behavior.

The next plague brought thick and palpable darkness throughout the entire land of Egypt.  No one could move for three days.  Prisoners of war in the last century who were imprisoned in total darkness for days on end testified that they emerged from the darkness totally disoriented and weak.  One can only imagine the effect on the entire Egyptian nation during this plague of darkness.  However, in Goshen, where the children of Israel lived, there was light.

The final plague, the Death of the Firstborn, struck at midnight — in the darkness of night.  Before it began, Moshe had carefully passed on to the children of Israel Hashem’s precise instructions as to what they were to do before and during the Plague.  First they were to obtain for themselves, each family, a lamb which they were to keep at their home for 4 days.  This required faith on their part for the Egyptians worshipped sheep as one of their gods.  Should the Egyptians begin to catch on to the plans of the Israelites to slaughter the lamb, the lives of the Hebrews could well have been in danger.

The second test of faith was associated with the commandment to take of the blood of the lamb and brush it on their doorpost and lintel and then to gather the entire family in the house, behind closed doors for when the Angel of Death passed over Egypt, the blood on the doorpost would save the lives of those within the house.

When the plague began, the Israelites would certainly have heard the cries and screams that would be emanating from the Egyptian homes as one after another, the firstborn in each home was discovered to be dead.  Fear mixed with curiosity would so easily have aroused in the Israelites the temptation to open the door and look out, or lean out of a window to try to see what was happening. Perhaps the Egyptians were becoming infuriated and gathering to attack the Hebrews in retailiation?

Their salvation depended on total obedience to the word of Hashem as delivered through Moshe – brush some of the blood on the doorpost and lintel and then go in and close the door!  Only within the confines that Hashem set for them would they be safe.

These two aspects of the Exodus teach us about the two sides of FAITH.  There are times when faith demands action as in the procurement of the lamb and holding it in one’s home for 4 days despite the danger it potentially represented.  The action prompted by faith was the mitzvah and by doing so, the Hebrews were protected.

There are other times when faith demands that we be still and wait quietly, as when the children of Israel had to remain in their locked homes despite whatever uproar of outpoured grief could be heard in the land.  Their ‘salvation’ in that instance depended not on action, but on quiet trust in Hashem.

One of the challenges of our lives is to learn when our Emuna (faith) needs to be expressed in action and when it is best expressed in quiet waiting upon Hashem.  Who of us has not made the mistake of trying to ‘take matters into our own hands’ instead of waiting for Hashem to handle a certain problem or difficulty?  And who of us has not perhaps ‘waited’ when Hashem was prompting us to act but we were fearful or unwilling to do what He impressed upon us to do?

The process of growing into mature faith is a journey of learning how to recognize Hashem’s direction to us and following His leading.

In Tune with Torah this week = renewing our willingness to be lifelong learners in the ways of Emuna.

May Hashem help each of us to recognize His direction more clearly with each passing week.

Shabbat Shalom



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