Parshas Bo has four distinct sections. The beginning of the parsha is the description of the final makkos building up to makkas bechoros. The Rambam writes that the story of Moshe confronting Pharaoh is a historical fact and simultaneously, it illustrates the struggles all human beings have between their yetzer horo and yetzer tov.
Pharaoh sees everything in Egypt has crumbled. All ancient societies built their economy on agriculture and animal power to produce wealth. Makkas borod and arbeh destroyed all the crops. In borod, all the animals were killed (besides those who feared Hashem and hid their animals inside shelters). So the economy, the food supply, has totally collapsed.
Pharaoh says he is letting the Jews go, but be careful—there are evil powers of the midbor coming to oppose you. Pharaoh doesn’t really have a choice but to capitulate. But when people are desperate to hold on to their sense of control, they use any sliver of a possibility to deny the uncomfortable facts.
For instance, when Moshe predicts makkas bechoros to Pharaoh and his court, he is careful to make an imprecise prediction. “At around midnight.” Rashi explains that if the prediction would be precise, and the timekeeping methods of the Egyptians would be a little bit off, they would dismiss the makka as a coincidence and Moshe as a fraud! This is astounding. Rashi is teaching us a deep lesson in human psychology. People who are desperate to avoid changing how they look at the world will use anything to preserve their old way of life. Even though nine makkos have been predicted and came to pass exactly how Moshe said it would, it doesn’t matter. If all the bechoros drop dead—a second before or after Moshe said they would—they now have an excuse to block out the truth and carry on life as usual. It could be the flimsiest of pretexts. It doesn’t matter. The reality is too uncomfortable and nothing will budge them to make them change.
The most amazing example of this was the fact that on the night of makkas bechoros, Pharaoh goes to bed. He has been going to bed every night the entire year of the makkos! Just imagine: Moshe has not been wrong for nine makkos—the entire Egyptian infrastructure is in ruins. Moshe now warns Pharaoh that his own son will die. But it doesn’t matter. Pharaoh wants to go through life making believe there is nothing to worry about. Nothing will disturb his fantasy.
Then there is a total explosion in Egypt—everyone screaming—and now he wakes up and leaves his bed in the middle of the night. This is the human condition.
The next part of the parsha is the korbon Pesach. Where does this korban fit into the scheme of yetzias mitzraim?
Hashem has been giving Klal Yisroel a powerful education for an entire year about the reality of the world. There is no other power in the world. All the avodo zoros are false. There is only Hashem’s power which causes everything to exist and causes everything to happen. He showed it with the Nile and with the sun. But these are brand new concepts. For generations, Klal Yisroel had been completely integrated into Egyptian culture and are virtually indistinguishable from the Egyptians. Before they leave Egypt, they have to demonstrate that they are different, that they are worthy of leaving.
Before Yaakov went down to Egypt, he was very excited to see Yosef before he dies. But then Yaakov comes to Be’er Shevah. This place is like a hard line between civilization and total midbor all the way to Egypt. He gets nervous about how the golus would progress over the years—perhaps we will never come back? Maybe this is a one-way trip?
Hashem appears to Yaakov and reassures him: I will go down with you and guarantee that they will return. But there are no free lunches in this world. Klal Yisroel have to deserve redemption. So Hashem has to give Klal Yisroel a crash-course in the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit for an entire year in the hope that they can extricate themselves from the influence they’ve been under for so long. But despite all this, for 80% of Klal Yisroel, it doesn’t stick. They think that Egypt is their permanent home and somehow justify everything going on around them. It was too hard to go back to being the children of the ovos and they will have to die in makkas choshech. For the rest, those who were ready to leave, it also wasn’t so simple. They have to bring a korbon pesach and perform bris miloh. These were preconditions for being worthy of geuloh.
Miloh is one of the few mitzvos which are a bris between Hashem and Klal Yisroel. Like Shabbos, it is what makes Klal Yisroel unique and without it, we lose our core identity as Hashem’s special people. On Shabbos, we testify that Hashem created the world and we pull back from creative activity on Shabbos to show that this world is not ours. If we violate Shabbos, we are treated like a non-Jew.
In Kiddush we say the posuk “asher boroh Elokim la’asos.” What does la’asos mean? It means the world is really incomplete and needs to be made by us. Hashem created us with an orloh for us to remove. Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva—If Hashem despises the orloh, why did He create us with one? If He hates poverty, why did He create people who are poor?
Rabbi Akiva responded that these are good questions. But whose actions are better? Hashem’s or Man’s? Come back to me tomorrow with a handful of wheat kernels. Rabbi Akiva prepared for the meeting with a cake his wife made. He first told Turnus Rufus to eat the cake and then eat the kernels. He enjoyed the cake and then vomited from ingesting the kernels.
Rabbi Akiva shows him that man’s actions are better. Hashem created the world in its raw, unfinished state. Hashem wants us to complete it. Even Odom requires completion and perfection and the first step is through bris miloh. We have to make ourselves better people out of the raw material Hashem created. We can mold and form ourselves into someone who Hashem wants us to become. We don’t do “self-discovery”. Don’t accept yourself just the way you are. Push yourself to become more than who you started out to be.
This is bris miloh. Hashem created an imperfect world and expects us to finish the job. Sometimes it isn’t easy to raise ourselves up to levels that we aren’t used to being on. Hashem tells the novi that we survived Egypt through our blood. Nothing of any value happens in this world without sacrifice and pain of growth and elevation.
All this was a precondition to becoming Jewish. A bris miloh means we testify with our very bodies that we are Hashem’s representatives in the world—different from all other nationalities.
Chazal tell us how Dovid Hamelech labeled a mizmor of Tehillim. He was in a bath house and was mortified that he didn’t have any mitzvos on him—no tallis, no tefillin—to remind him that he is a Jew who serves Hashem. Then he was put at ease when he realized he still had bris miloh—an indelible sign that he is a servant of Hashem which can never be removed from him—on his very flesh.
Some people can subject everything they have to Hashem besides their very selves. Bris Miloh is who we are. This Mizmor doesn’t talk about miloh at all! It talks about loshon horo. Why? Because once we subject our very selves, we realize that even our speech and our mannerisms are subject to Hashem’s command.
Hashem told us to put the blood of the korbon on the doorposts. Why was this necessary? Hashem needs some blood to figure out which house is Jewish and which isn’t?
The answer is that this was a part of our demonstration that we are worthy of being redeemed. We had to take the avodo zoro of the Mitzrim in public, make it a sacrifice and put it on display on the doorpost for everyone to see. We had to make a total rejection of our previous identity. We are not subject to our human masters, we don’t fear their disapproval. We only fear Hashem.
This was the zechus that made us worthy of geuloh. We became spiritually mature and developed. But we had to take that maturity and put it into practice—make a public demonstration of our devotion to avodas Hashem. These are the two mitzvos asei which are chayav koreis. Without them, we are lacking the conviction that we are Jews whose very identity is that we are avdei Hashem.
In every generation, there are avodo zoros without number. We need to take the prevalent avodo zoro and culture and reject it publically. We don’t care if the world goes crazy and threatens to harm us.
When Klal Yisroel leave, the eirev rav leave with them. These are a very dangerous group of people. They were the source of Klal Yisroel’s downfall throughout their journey in the midbor and throughout the generations.
What is so dangerous about them? They were so taken by Klal Yisroel’s meteoric rise to greatness that they wanted to follow them. They saw all the wealth and majesty of Klal Yisroel when they left Egypt that they wanted to be a part of it too and jump on the bandwagon. But Klal Yisroel had to earn it first with painful lessons and mitzvos involving their own blood. The eirev rav wanted to enjoy all the benefits without making any sacrifices. But then, when things get hard, they were the first ones to complain.
Of course Torah and Mitzvos are the most uplifting and inspiring things in the world. But it takes effort and struggle of climbing a mountain, in slow, careful steps. There is no instant ruchniyus where you press a button and you gain sheleimus. You can’t expect real growth to come easy.
My rebbe once pointed out that we say in the beginning of the haggodoh—hoh lachmoh anyoh—a poor man’s bread. But at the end of the haggodoh, the matzoh becomes a symbol of freedom and geuloh. Once you go through a yetzias Mitzrayim, then the same matzoh you ate as a slave becomes transformed into a food of freedom.
We need to review yetzias Mitzrayim in the many mitzvos we repeat daily, because the lessons are so vital and so fundamental. The idea of subjecting ourselves entirely to Hashem without holding back, to denounce the avodo zoros being worshiped around us, to go through pain and hardship in order to achieve something worthwhile—in order to raise our level and be worthy of geuloh. That is what it means to be Jewish.
Chicago - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 25 state and local agencies on Tuesday unveiled a crackdown on robocalls as a congressional panel approved a bill that would take new steps to reduce the unwanted calls. The FTC said it was making public 94 actions in “Operation Call it Quits,” targeting individuals, groups and companies responsible for more than a billion calls pitching a variety of products and services, including credit card interest rate reductions, money-making opportunities and medical alert systems. State and local agencies are also participating in the crackdown, including 15 state attorneys general and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the FTC said in a news release. A U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce s...
Israeli drugmaker Teva will pay Oklahoma $85 million in a settlement reached in May and approved by a state court on Monday in an opioid abuse suit. Teva has been accused of worsening the opioid crisis there. The court “initially refused to sign off on the deal, demanding more answers regarding the settlement’s compliance with newly passed legislature,” reported Calcalist. Like other opioid producers, Teva is facing similar lawsuits in the United States, “most of which will be debated in the Cleveland federal court in October,” per Calcalist. In 2016, “54 percent of all overdose deaths in Oklahoma involved an opioid,” according to INTEGRIS Health, the state’s biggest hospital network.
Reacting to what he called a "disturbing level of violence" over the past several days that left 12 shot and four dead, Baltimore police Commissioner Michael Harrison pleaded for the public's help. In at least three of the cases, Harrison said at a news conference, the victim was at least acquainted in some way with the person police believe shot them. And in many cases, police responded to the scene seconds or minutes after the sound of gunfire. Harrison said he believes shooters are being protected by a "culture of violence" where even the people affected by gun violence fear reprisal if they speak out. "Now officer are very often in the right places and right time, but violent crimes are being committed anyway, which speaks to a certain culture of violence where criminals do not...
The same day as a billion-dollar cocaine bust at the Philadelphia seaport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Port of Baltimore made the port's largest ever cocaine seizure. Authorities and local partners seized 333 pounds of cocaine found June 18 in a shipping container of beach chairs from China that had passed through Panama. The beach chairs were destined to a Maryland address. The 125 bricks had a street value of $10 million. The previous record for a cocaine seizure in Baltimore came in April 2007, when authorities seized 311 pounds of the drug, officials said. “This seizure illustrates the complexities of Customs and Border Protection’s multi-faceted missions, from ensuring that imported goods comply with U.S. trade regulations to interdic...
In concluding remarks on the security summit with Israel, Russia, and the US in Jerusalem, US National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Palestinian boycott of economic conference in Bahrain a ‘mistake’. “It’s a mistake for the Palestinians to boycott,” Bolton said in response to i24NEWS correspondent Jordana Miller’s question concerning the Peace to Prosperity workshop that is meant to be the first part of the Trump administration’s peace proposal for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the two-day event is being boycotted by the Palestinians, representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt will participate. Read more at i24NEWS.
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One of the highlights of the Torah Umesorah 75th anniversary dinner was an original song and video production depicting the heartfelt belief and mission of Torah Umesorah as instilled in us by our Roshei Yeshiva : To ensure that all of our children can aspire to the level of our Gedolim. Despite carrying the weight of klal Yisrael’s challenges on their shoulders, our Gedolim never hesitate to make the chinuch of even the youngest of our tiknokos shel beis raban a top priority. Torah Umesorah is grateful for their daily hadracha, helping our students to not only succeed, but to reach for the stars - by being lifted up and riding On The Shoulders of Giants. Credits: Composed and Sung By: Baruch Levine Lyrics By: Malka Leah Josephs Video Produced by: Kol Rom Music Arranged and ...
A new survey showed a rise in the number of Americans who said small businesses should have the right to refuse service to Jews if doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs. Conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, which has partnered with the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, the survey revealed that 19 percent of Americans felt discrimination against Jews on religious grounds was acceptable. This marked a seven-percent rise since 2014, when only 12 percent agreed. According to the data, 24 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of Democrats, and 16 percent of independents said such discrimination should be permitted. In 2014, only 16 percent of Republicans and nine percent of Democrats did so. There is a gender gap on the subject, with 22 perc...
During the Second Temple, the Greek empire reigned (over Israel),1 and they (the Greeks) passed decrees against the Jews and (tried) to erase their religion, and did not allow them to carry out Torah (study) or the commandments. They put their hands on their property and their daughters. They entered the Temple, destroyed and made the pure unclean. The Jews were in great distress because of them and were much oppressed, until the G-d of their fathers had mercy on them, delivering them from their hands and saving them. Then overcame, the sons of the Hasmonean High Priest, (the Greeks) and killed them and saved the Jews from their hands. They appointed a king from the Priests, and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than 200 years until the destruction of (the) second (Temple). When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, it was the 25th of Kislev2 when they entered the Sanctuary (inner room) and did not find pure (olive) oil in the Temple, except one jar sealed with seal of the High Priest, and it did not contain enough to light except for one day only. But they lit from it the lamps of the Menorah3 for eight days, until they could crush olives and produce a (new quantity) of pure oil. For these reasons, decreed the Sages of that generation that these eight days that begin on the 25th Kislev, will be days of joy and praise. One lights on them lamps at evening at the entrance to the houses, every evening of the eight nights to show off and demonstrate the miracle. These days are called ''Hanukah'' that is to say ''they rested'' (chanu) on the ''25'' ('th of the month) because on the 25th they rested from their enemies. and also because of those days they (re)-dedicated the house (Temple) which their foes had defiled. Also some say that it is a commandment to increase slightly the festive meals on Hanukah. Another reason is because the work of (building) the Sanctuary (in the desert) was completed in these days. One should tell one's children the story of the miracles that were done for our fore-fathers in those days, (see Josephus) However, these meals are not considered as part of the commandment unless one says at the meal songs of praise. One should increase charity in these Hanukah days, for this can help mend any defects in our souls. This charity, should be given particularly to poor Torah scholars. (KSA 139:1)
Washington - The acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, John Sanders, is resigning and will leave his post on July 5, the agency said on Tuesday, a move that coincides with an outcry over the treatment of detained migrant children. The relocation of 250 migrant children from an overcrowded Texas border patrol station, where they were held for weeks in squalid conditions without adequate food and water, has stepped up criticism from immigration activists and Democrats of Republican President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. The New York Times first reported that Sanders was resigning. Sanders has led the agency since April, when Trump reshuffled the management of U.S. immigration agencies under the Department of Homeland Security. B...
Manama, Bahrain - President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, appealed Tuesday for the Palestinians to consider a $50 billion economic support plan they have already rejected because it does not include a political resolution to the long-running conflict with the Israelis. Kushner, speaking at a conference in Bahrain, defended the proposal as the foundation of any eventual peace plan. Meanwhile, Palestinians protested the plan in the streets of the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere. “We don’t need money. We are not hungry for bread,” said Gaza physician Said Jadba, one of the protesters jamming the streets of West Bank cities as the plan was unveiled. “We are hungry for dignity.” The president’s son-in-law sought to defend...
Parshat Shelach -The Panic Button
Moshe launches a reconnaissance mission and expects honest reporting. We can't possibly conquer this hotly contested country without accurate intel and without truthful information. Yet the story of "the spies" represents the lowest point in Moshe's career and of the desert saga. What was so notorious about this incident? Why did it torpedo the march toward the promised land, reroute the Jews for an additional 38 desert-years, and reshape the arc of Jewish history?
1. Irrational Fears: "A Land which Devours its Inhabitants"
2. Inaccurate Estimation of Others: "They viewed us as grasshoppers"!
Baqaa Camp, Jordan - A U.S. Middle East peace plan is stirring anger and apprehension in Palestinian refugee camps around the region by raising the prospect that a long-cherished dream of returning to former homes in what is now Israel will be forever crushed. In camps around the region, Palestinians staged strikes, burned Israeli and U.S. flags and played nationalist songs from loudspeakers to protest against a plan they say could result in their permanent expulsion from ancestral homes. The Trump administration launches a $50 billion economic initiative at an international meeting starting in Bahrain on Tuesday as the first part of its broader political blueprint to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the plan’s political details remain secret, for many Palestinians ...
Tel Aviv is moving towards becoming Israel’s first city with no public phones, removing 50 in the past few years and another 34 this year. Ramat Gan wants to replace its public phone booths with trees after finding that 80 percent of its populace no longer wants the town’s 232 public phones. Israel still has about 10,000 public phones, many of them no longer in use. The only people who may miss them are yeshiva students and chareidi children, who do not have personal cell phones. The number of phone booths in the US decreased from two million in 1999 to about 100,000, with a fifth of them in New York.
Jerusalem - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday hosted in Jerusalem what he termed as “a historic and unprecedented” trilateral meeting in Jerusalem between the national security advisers of the US, Russia, and Israel. The three parties are focused on Iran’s presence in Syria, which is perceived as a threat to Israel, and the latest developments on Iran’s aggressive conduct in the region in general. Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s patron, has significant sway on the goings-on in the war-torn country. Tuesday’s meeting took place following meetings held by Netanyahu and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat in recent days with US National Security Adviser John Bolton and the Secretary of the Russian National Security Cou...
Washington - Melania Trump has announced that her spokeswoman will be the new White House press secretary. Stephanie Grisham, who has been with the Trumps since 2015, will also take on the role of White House communications director. The first lady tweeted Tuesday that she “can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country.” Grisham succeeds Sarah Sanders, who announced her resignation earlier this month.
Jerusalem - SpaceIL, the Israeli company that attempted but failed to put an unmanned craft on the moon earlier this year, says it will not try a second moonshot. The company issued a statement Tuesday saying its lunar mission in April has been widely hailed as “an exceptional success,” despite crash landing on the moon. It says that “an attempt to repeat a trip to the moon is not enough of a challenge” and will instead search for a different mission. The SpaceIL “Beresheet” spacecraft attempted to be the first privately funded lunar mission, but failed to make a controlled landing on the lunar surface. The company launched in 2011 and initially competed for Google’s Lunar Xprize, a $20 million challenge for private companies to land on the moon.
Des Monies - Joe Biden’s presidential campaign announced a new round of endorsements on Tuesday as the former vice president tries to bolster his status as the Democrats’ presidential front-runner. He heralded support from four South Carolina state legislators, including two African Americans, Rep. Carl Anderson and Sen. Kevin Johnson. Their backing comes as Biden faces criticism from rival Democratic candidates for recent comments in which said the Senate “got things done” with “civility” even when the body included segregationists with whom he disagreed. Biden and others are competing aggressively for an edge with black voters who make up a majority of the Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina, home of the first Southern primary in 2020. Bi...
TechnologyOpens a New Window. shares Tuesday helped drag down major indexes of U.S. stocksOpens a New Window., already struggling on concerns over tensions with Iran and comments by the head of the Federal ReserveOpens a New Window.. And in another sign of weakening investor sentiment, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell below 2 percent. Bond yields, or interest rates, move in the opposite direction of bond prices. The latest U.S. sanctions by President TrumpOpens a New Window. on IranOpens a New Window. drew a sharp rebuke from the Islamic Republic on Tuesday, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calling the economic crackdown “outrageous and idiotic.” Tensions between Tehran and Washington heightened last week after an ...
New York - A pilot who died when his helicopter crashed atop a New York City skyscraper on June 10 had been flying erratically and said he did not know where he was shortly before the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a preliminary report released on Tuesday. The report said the pilot, who has been identified as Tim McCormack, 58, of Clinton Corners, New York, had asked air traffic controllers for permission to return to a heliport on East 34th Street and then changed course and altitude several times. He came within 500 feet of the heliport before reversing course and striking the 54-story AXA Equitable Center on Seventh Avenue in one of the city’s busiest areas a few blocks north of Times Square. No one in the building or on the ground was injured. ...
Springfield, IL - Illinois’ new governor delivered on a top campaign promise Tuesday by signing legislation legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, the 11th state to do so and the first to implement a comprehensive statewide cannabis marketplace designed by legislators. Legalization in Illinois also means that nearly 800,000 people with criminal records for purchasing or possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less may have those records expunged, a provision minority lawmakers and interest groups demanded. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose election last year gave Democrats complete control over state government again after four years under GOP predecessor Bruce Rauner, signed the bill in Chicago amid a bevy of lawmakers and pot proponents. Under the measure, residents can...
Washington - U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to obliterate parts of Iran if it attacked “anything American” after Tehran said the latest U.S. sanctions had scuttled any chance of diplomacy, calling White House actions “mentally retarded”. Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing sanctions against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior figures, with punitive measures against Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expected later this week. The moves came after Iran shot down a U.S. drone on June 20 and Trump called off a retaliatory air strike minutes before impact, saying too many people would have been killed. It would have been the first time the United States had bombed the Islamic Republic in four decades of mu...
New York - Steve Dunleavy, a reporter and columnist for the New York Post who helped define the tabloid’s modern style, died. He was 81. The Post reported that Dunleavy died at his home on Long Island on Monday night. Steve Dunleavy was one of the greatest reporters of all time,” Post owner Rupert Murdoch said. “His passing is the end of a great era.” Dunleavy was born in Sydney, Australia, and began his journalism career at The Sun, where his father worked as a photographer. He did stints at a variety of newspapers, including the Daily Mirror and The South China Morning Post, before arriving in New York City in 1966 where he eventually joined the New York Post in 1977 shortly after Murdoch bought the tabloid. Dunleavy also helped create the television ne...