My notes on Bo

Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

Exodus 10

10:3   And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.

Comment: “let my people go”: This phrase also appeared in v.7:16, 8.1, 8:20, 9:1, which is also followed by “that they may serve me”. 

Why is the phrase “let my people go” often followed by the phrase “that they may serve me”? 

The goal of freedom from slavery, or salvation from hardship, is to serve Gd. When we are facing hardship we can pray for Gd’s salvation, so that we can serve Him freely and without worries. 

During the winter season of reading Exodus, I usually start to teach and become very busy. This year, in addition to current teaching and many other things, I am stressed with the need to prepare for a new course that I was not very familiar with, to be taught next quarter. I pray for Gd’s help and salvation, so that I can serve Him more freely and without worries.


Exodus 11

11:5   And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.

Comment: This is the ten plague. Previous plagues were less severe. They started from mere inconvenience (such as river water turned into blood and the need to dig for underground water), and progressed to death of cattle, to personal afflictions (such as sickness caused by boils, famine caused by locusts, and disability-like experiences caused by darkness), and now to death of people. 

If the first nine plagues wouldn’t work to change Pharaoh’s heart, why didn’t Gd directly start with the tenth plague of killing the Egyptian firstborns?

This can show to the readers that Gd doesn’t punish by killing people unnecessarily. We are therefore convinced that lesser punishments were not enough to change Pharaoh’s heart (or to prevent him from retracting).


Exodus 12

12:2   This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Comment: “first month”: When is this biblical first month during the solar seasons? 

In Spring.  According to Exodus 34:18, “…  in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.” Abib means spring in Hebrew. This corresponds to March or April in Egypt. 

How do we know that the month in Bible is lunar and starts with the new moon? 

A month in Hebrew is “chodesh”, which is related to “new” (chadash). Only a lunar month starts with the new moon phase each month. A solar month such as January can start with any moon phase, which usually is not “new”. 

The use of moon phases in the biblical calendar is also hinted at in Psalm 104:19, “He appointed the moon for seasons …”


Exodus 13

13:8   And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.

Comment: “in that day”: I believe this is on Passover each year, when celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. This is a command for all generations, since v.13:10 says “Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.”

“…did unto me … when I came forth out of Egypt.”: This is in first person singular “I”.

If I am a Jew, living many generations later,  did “I” really come “forth out of Egypt” personally?

The answer must be Yes, if the Bible tells only the truth.

It is difficult to understand how this is physically possible since a modern Jew wasn’t born yet at the time of Exodus, but when the Bible challenges our mundane way of thinking, it is very likely trying to help us think about what really matters. Maybe it is not the physical part of “I” that really matters. Maybe it is not the time difference of thousands of years that matters. 

Could it be that each Jewish soul, even before the formation of her future physical body that would “cloak” her, was carried out by the first generation when they exited Egypt? In any case, whether we could understand it or not, each Jew is commanded to regard himself as having experienced the exodus from Egypt personally. Some related links are:

For each Christian, is it also proper for him/her to think that “I came forth out of Egypt”? 

I think yes. Before Exodus, all Gd’s people were enslaved in Egypt, and Christianity was not developed until much later after Exodus. For a modern time Christian, this “I”, was chosen and predestined to be a member of Gd’s people, no matter where or when “I” would be born. Without Exodus, all Gd’ people would remain to be slaves in Egypt, then the soul of “I” would be “cloaked” by a physical body of an Israelite slave, suffering in Egypt. Exodus from Egypt has therefore changed the destiny of “I”, from a slave in Egypt, to be a free person. In this sense, I indeed “came forth out of Egypt”, due to what the LRD ”did unto me”: He did the miraculous Exodus from Egypt, for all future Gd’s people. (A related concept can be found from the Jewish Haggadah, which says that  “And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our ancestors from Egypt, behold we and our children and our children’s children would [all] be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”