In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Bo, Pharaoh will not free the Israelite slaves, which
causes G-d to send the eighth, ninth, and tenth plagues. First are the locusts. G-d tells Moses that
if Pharaoh will not let his people go, a swarm of locusts would swarm across the land. As
Pharaoh continues to refuse, the locusts are released until the land is completely covered black
with them. Surprisingly, Pharaoh admits that he sinned and begs G-d to remove the plague,
which he does. However, the slaves are still not released. So, then came the darkness. For 3 days
straight, The Egyptians are plagued with darkness, but not the Jews. As a result, Pharaoh tells
Moses that his people could go, but not the animals. Moses responds by saying, “no, we must all
go including our livestock.” Pharaoh refuses once again.
This was the last straw. G-d says that if the slaves and their livestock were not released,
each of the firstborns among the Egyptians would be killed. Indeed, young and old, rich and
poor, human and animal, all the first-borns were killed and there was a loud cry across Egypt. G-
d says, “This 14th day of the beginning of months will be known as the Feast of Unleavened
Bread. It shall be celebrated among all the Jewish generations for seven days. No leavened bread
may be eaten during this time. On the first night of this Feast of Unleavened Bread, every Jew
will remember and retell the story of how God freed the Jewish slaves from Egypt.”
As we celebrate Passover each year to commemorate this story, we must ask ourselves,
why must we retell this story every year? Why must we have a yearly festival? Can’t we just
read the weekly Torah portions that describe the Exodus and suffice with that? Why does our
faith put such a heavy emphasis on this story?
Perhaps, it is not enough to simply read the Exodus story from the Torah. The Exodus,
like so many stories from our past, is not just history. It’s a part of our present-day reality as
well. Jews do not simply learn about the past; we look to the past to help us in the present. The
stories of Pharaoh and the plagues give us the strength and courage to withstand violent anti-
Semitism in today’s world. The story of the Jews crossing the Red Sea gave many Ethiopian
Jews the strength to escape poverty and abject hunger. Most importantly, the story of the giving
of the Torah at Mt. Sinai reminds us that we must never stop learning and growing. We must
keep reaching for greater and greater heights.
LOR Shlichim, Evan Forman and Sivan Stave
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