The struggle between Moshe and the king of Egypt comes to an end this Shabbat, as the last four plagues rain death and destruction on Egypt—and especially the horrific Tenth Plague, the so-called death of the firstborn, which more likely means death of Egyptian society's elite, as well as its best animals and favored slaves. That is because the plague likely was a disease that attacked the uppermost portions of the stored grain, which would have gone to the elite before anyone else. It is thus ironic: The very granaries Yosef built to rescue Egypt in the end frees his family from Egypt's clutches.

More about the parashah...


Chapter 12 is a very complex composition. It divides into a number of clearly differentiated literary units, each centering on various aspects of the Exodus events. Some of these units deal with immediate concerns, such as the last-minute preparations for the departure from Egypt; others relate to the enduring impact of the events in shaping the future course of Israel's life as a people.

Appropriately, the entire complex is framed by the phrase "the whole community of Israel" (vv. 3, 47).

Another salient feature of this composition is the sevenfold repetition of the Hebrew stem sh-m-r, "to observe, guard, preserve."

There is considerable overlap among the various units, but no exact duplication. The repetition amplifies the preceding data in various ways, either by the addition of explanatory material or by supplementary details or instructions. Without doubt, the chapter is a composite of several strands of tradition.

One question is why verse states that these events occurred "in the land of Egypt." The location is given because this chapter is an exception to the rule that all the laws were promulgated in the wilderness. The institution of the annual Pesach celebration antedates the events it is to commemorate.

The impending Exodus is herein visualized as the start of a wholly new order of life that is to be dominated by the consciousness of God's active presence in history. The entire religious calendar of Israel is henceforth to reflect this reality by numbering the months of the year from the month of the Exodus. This month is elsewhere termed "the month of Aviv," literally "when the ears of barley ripen," meaning the spring (March/April), now known as Nisan. In other words, the calendar is lunisolar, the lunar reckoning being accommodated to the needs of agricultural life.

—Adapted from the JPS Commentary to Exodus


the Shabbat Booklet to read more about the Parashah

Parashat Bo (Sh'mot 10.1-13.16)



Shabbat Candle Lighting for Friday, January 19 is at 4:41 p.m.

Shabbat ends Saturday night with havdalah at 5:45 p.m.

Shabbat Shalom

This Week: Shabbat Parashat Bo

Sh'mot 10.1-13.16, pages 374-394

FIRST ALIYAH: After announcing the locusts were coming, the text says Moshe "turned and left pharaoh's presence." He always waited for an answer before, so why not now?

FOURTH ALIYAH: Chapter 12 opens with God declaring that "this month shall mark for you the beginning of the year.: Is there a commandment or two lurking here and, if yes, what is it (what are they)?

The haftarah, Yirmiyahu 46.13-28 begins on Page 395.

Next Week: Shabbat Shirah Parashat B'shallach

Sh'mot 13.17-17.16., pages 399-422

FIRST ALIYAH: Israel is led to Canaan by a circuitous route so as to avoid encountering war and demanding to return to Egypt. War is inevitable, however, so what is this about?

SEVENTH ALIYAH: Moshe is told to take his staff, stand in front of a particular rock, hit the rock with his staff, and produce water for the Israelites. Supposedly, he is later punished for doing just that elsewhere. Or was he?

The haftarah, Shof'tim 5.1-31 begins on Page 426

The questions below are discussed during each week's Torah reading.

They are offered here and in the Shabbat Booklet,

to allow those who wish to participate to prepare in advance.