Thoughts for Bo

In honor of the yahrzeit of my father, Avraham ben Haim Simha, which was this week on the 3rd of Sh’vat.

In the very beginning of the Torah, In The Beginning, our teacher Rashi quotes the midrash in the name of Rabi Yitzhak that the Torah could have/ostensibly should have begun with “this month shall be the head month to you, It shall be the first month of the year. (Sh’mot/Exodus 12:2)” This, says Rabi Yitzhak, is the first commandment given to the nation of Israel. This is the commandment to establish a calendar for the Jewish people.

I don’t want to go back and analyze that first and all-important Rashi that opens up all of Torah learning for us. But now that we have finally met up with that first mitzvah that God commanded us for all generations, to establish a unique calendar for the nation of Israel, I’d like to ponder some of the implications.

Why is the mitzvah of establishing a calendar, sanctifying each month as it comes, the FIRST? Why not Shabbat, or kashrut, or prayer, or any number of things? What’s more, didn’t they have calendars already, in Egypt of all places? A society known for it’s sophisticated knowledge of astronomy certainly had a pretty well thought-out calendar. Why not just adopt theirs?

Here we are, at the first point in the Torah where we are commanded a large number of mitzvot in concentration, and the first commandment for all generations to come is a calendar? What’s more, Rabi Yitzhak tells us that it is worthy of starting the entire Torah!

What does a calendar do?

Some Thoughts for VaEra

This was cross-posted to the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance.

Vayehezak lev Paroah…Sh’mot/Exodus7:13

“Pharoah’s heart hardened and he did not pay attention to them, as God had predicted.”

The midrash Tanhuma points out that in the first five plagues the Torah tells us that Pharoah’s heart hardened, whereas in the last five the Torah tells us that God hardened Pharoah’s heart.

Rav Yaakov Moshe Harlop asks how is it that Pharoah wasn’t moved during the first plagues? How was he even capable of remaining obstinate (hardening his heart) in the face of what was happening, of Moshe’s warnings of further disaster to come? How could he be unafraid?