Sworn to Sacred Service

Sworn to Sacred Service

Jan 22, 2021 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Bo

The most powerful ritual in American life is the oath of office administered to our President. The text is prescribed by the Constitution, but its choreography is a matter of convention. Most Presidents have placed their left hand on a Bible as they raise their right and swear to execute their office faithfully, to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This ritual signals solemnity and anticipation for the work awaiting our new leader.

Read More
The Liberating Power of the Calendar

The Liberating Power of the Calendar

Jan 31, 2020 By Hillel Gruenberg | Commentary | Bo

In Parashat Bo, God instructs Moses to formally begin the counting of months, with the month of Aviv (later Nisan) kicking off what we now know as the Hebrew calendar. This injunction represents the first commandment given to the Children of Israel, and only the third or fourth in the entirety of the Torah. It might seem odd that this, of all the many commandments the children of Israel will eventually receive, is handed down first, even before the exodus from Egypt was completed. However, the institution of this uniquely Hebrew calendrical system (its overlap with other frameworks aside) was a necessary precursor to support both the communal-religious practice and mental emancipation of a newly (or rather, soon-to-be) free people.

Read More
Memory and the Exodus from Egypt

Memory and the Exodus from Egypt

Jan 11, 2019 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Bo

Zakhor—Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, from the house of bondage, for with a mighty hand Adonai brought you forth from this . . . (Exod. 13:3).

The Exodus from Egypt is the first of several things the Torah commands us to remember (zakhor). What does it mean to remember, and how do we accomplish it?

Read More
Miracles of Biblical and Everyday Proportions

Miracles of Biblical and Everyday Proportions

Jan 19, 2018 By Joel Alter | Commentary | Bo

Last week, God pummeled Egypt unprecedentedly with hail:

The LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire streamed down to the ground, as the LORD rained down hail upon the land of Egypt. The hail was very heavy—fire flashing in the midst of the hail—such as had not fallen on the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. (Exod. 9:23–24)

On the combination of fire and ice, Ibn Ezra comments that this was “a wonder within a wonder.” 

Read More
From Generation to Generation Activism is Alive!

From Generation to Generation Activism is Alive!

Feb 3, 2017 By Jonathan Lipnick | Commentary | Bo | Pesah

My son Noah and I like to take walks together. It affords us time to connect—to talk about food, sports, relationships, and politics, and, once in a while, to explore an existential question.

“If I had never met my grandfather,” Noah once asked me, “is it true to say that I will never really know him?”

Read More
“Us” and “Them”

“Us” and “Them”

Feb 3, 2017 By Paula Rose | Commentary | Bo | Pesah

“They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”

This tongue-in-cheek summary of most Jewish holidays applies most strongly, perhaps, to the Passover Seder. We retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we praise and thank God for redeeming us, and then we eat a festive meal. Cast in that light, the story of the Exodus seems so straightforward. The Israelites are innocent victims, somehow pawns in God’s larger plan. The Egyptians, and especially Pharaoh, are wicked, oppressing the Israelites with forced labor.

Read More
What’s Really Bad for the Jews?

What’s Really Bad for the Jews?

Jan 8, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Bo

Apparently the wonders and miracles of the plagues were not enough to inspire all of the Israelites to want to leave Egypt. Moreover, according to this midrash, not all of the Israelites were slaves.

Read More
Asking Questions

Asking Questions

Jan 27, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Bo

Isidor I. Rabi, who was born in Austria in 1898, won the Nobel prize in physics in 1944.

Read More
Trading Pharaoh for God?

Trading Pharaoh for God?

Jan 31, 1998 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Bo | Pesah

Everyone knows that four children are mentioned in the Passover Haggadah and that one of them is the evil child. Probably fewer of us are aware that the question attributed to this child is a biblical verse found in this week’s Torah portion, “What do you mean by this rite [avodah]? (Exodus 12:26). 

Read More
Darkness As Threat & Haven

Darkness As Threat & Haven

Jan 19, 2002 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Bo

In an emotional television interview, the last person rescued alive from the World Trade Center described her panic when she saw that night had arrived while she was still trapped beneath the wreckage. Once this woman realized that the light had faded from between the slabs of concrete and metal and that it was truly dark outside, she lost hope of ever being rescued.

Read More