Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha #15: Bo (Go) Sh’mot (Exodus) 10:1-13:16
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 46:13-28
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 16:1-21
This parashah begins with the last of the plagues prior to the exodus. First, are the locusts that consume everything left after the plague of hail. Recall this includes the wheat that was underground at the time of the hail. G-d was merciful in allowing the Egyptians to have a source of food. This plague is described as an invasion more severe than there had ever been before or will ever be again. (Ex. 10:14). Locusts are capable of eating their own weight daily. One square mile containing a swarm could contain 200 million locusts. Swarms covering 400 square miles have been recorded. A swarm this size would carry some 80 billion locusts! Pharaoh once again asks for forgiveness, Moshe intervenes, and the locusts are removed even though Pharaoh still did not let the Israelites go into the desert. We are told in verse 6 that Pharaoh’s houses were filled first. The sages tell us that the punishment came first to the one most responsible for the persecution. This is one reason why clergy should take their positions seriously, with humility and an awesome fear of G-d. Biblical teachers, correct or not are held to a stricter standard of accountability than the flock. This does not by any means release us from personal accountability; it simply places more responsibility on the teacher. Verse 9 points out that everyone is responsible for keeping G-d’s mandated festivals. It is not the wife and kid’s responsibility, or just the men, or just the elders. G-d commands observance by everyone.
Next, darkness was placed upon Egypt without a forewarning to Pharaoh. The air became so black that the Egyptians could not even see one another for three days. Some commentators say this darkness could be physically felt (Wilmington). This would have prevented the Egyptians from finding their way around for food or water. Yet G-d provided light for his people through the entire event. As Messianic believers we know there was physical light and the Light of Yahshua with the Israelites. This time Pharaoh offered a partial deal to let the people go without their flocks and herds. Moshe declined telling Pharaoh that everything must go. Pharaoh refuses and makes the interesting statement, “And you had better not see my face again, because the day you see my face, you will die” (Gen 12: 28).
There was yet one more plague. This was the killing of the firstborn of every Egyptian and of the livestock. Verse 1 tells us that this plague would be complete. G-d’s justice decrees that one who refuses of his own free will to obey G-d and follow his Torah will be forced to do so in a less than optimal situation. Furthermore the sages teach, whoever neglects the Torah because of wealth, will ultimately neglect it in poverty (Avos 4:10). But G-d prepares the hearts of the Egyptians towards the Israelites so that they will easily surrender their gold and silver jewelry. It is important to note that G-d told the Israelites to go to the Egyptians, men to men, and women to women and ask for the jewelry. This is intimated by the phrase “Now tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman her neighbor…” (Ex. 10:2). The Israelites had to act on their faith in G-d. They didn’t sit in their homes and wait for the Egyptians to drop the jewelry at their feet. It is no different today. Our faith is manifested by our actions based on our beliefs. These plagues demonstrated the power of G-d; that His power has no limits. Indeed His Name YHVH contains three words that describe this; YHYH (He was), HVH (He is), and HYH (He will be).
Verse 12 describes the Biblical mandate for establishing our calendar according to G-d. This is one reason we know, and the only proof we need that January 1 is not the beginning of the year. January 1st is a product of faulty thinking in the Christian realm. If after all, Yahshua was born on the 25th of December as Christianity maintains because they wanted to have a day of their own apart from the celebration of the winter solstice on December 21, He would have been circumcised on the 8th day which would be January 1. Interesting that Dionysius Exiguus, the 6th century monk who established the modern system of dating the years did so from Yahshua’s designated date of circumcision, rather than His birthday! In Ex. 12:2 G-d said, “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you.” This is the month of Abib in Hebrew or Nissan in Babylonian. This was the very first commandment given to the nation Israel as a whole. Observance includes men and women, although unfortunately the New Moon observance has been relegated in some communities to the women. Observance of the New Moon is so important that a thousand years later during the period of the Syrian-Greek persecution that culminated with the miracle of Chanukkah, Rosh Kodesh (New Moon) was one of only three commandments whose observance was forbidden. The other two commandments were the Sabbath and circumcision.
Although the Hebrew name of the first month is Abib, the Babylonian name of Nissan was kept to remind the Jews of their redemption from Babylon which resulted in the building of the Second Temple (Ramban).
Ex. 12:3 describes how G-d carefully laid out the details of Pesach (Passover) which is a mandated festival. Notice that the entire assembly is involved. The word assembly in Hebrew derives from the word Ayin Dalet Tav (Adat) which means to fix or appoint. This implies that the word refers to a society united by a common calling, a community (R. Hirsch). This is the first time this word is used in the Torah, implying that the commandment of the Pesach-offering was the beginning of a new era for Israel and a new relationship with YHVH as His Chosen People.
The lamb without defect in its first year is to be chosen for the offering. On the 14th of the month, the entire assembly slaughters these innocent animals. Note that the sacrifices occurred in the afternoon just as the time of Yahshua’s crucifixion and the time of his death, 3PM. In retrospect, the people smeared some of the blood on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they ate it with matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs). Similarly, Yahshua’s blood atoned for our PAST sins (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9) and provided a way in which we can be reconciled to G-d as a separated people as He prepares to take us out of spiritual Egypt, through the water, and into our own training ground in our spiritual desert. This is the first mention of leaven in the Bible and from this point on it comes to stand for evil. In the B’rit Chadashah leaven stands for Hypocrisy ( Lk. 12:1), Rationalism ( Mt.16:6,12), Worldliness ( Mk.8:15), Evil conduct ( 1 Cor.5:6), and False doctrine ( Gal. 5:9).The meal the Israelites are commanded to eat before leaving Egypt is not your typical social gathering where everyone sits and talks around the food and catches up on the day. The Israelites are instructed to eat this meal in a hurry, ready to run. G-d is merciful in telling them why they have to eat this meal in this particular way. He is about to judge Egypt and kill the firstborn. He is also merciful to allow them to eat at all before they are taken out of Egypt. These examples are among many that illustrate how G-d provides our every need. Note that Pharaoh is not killed; even though he is a first born. He was allowed to live so that he could tell the world about G-d’s greatness.
The next sentence should be marked in your Bible in some way. Verse 14 states “This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to Adonai; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation. Perpetual means ongoing; it has neither been abrogated nor replaced with the pagan celebration of Easter, which always falls on Sunday. The true Passover always falls on the 14th day of Nissan on various days of the week. Passover also does not biblically represent the resurrection of Yahshua. There are not seven days of Passover although the Jewish calendar marks the days as such. Passover lasts 24 hours. Then the feast of Unleavened Bread begins with the culmination of the feast of First Fruits. This entire event foreshadows Yahshua’s sacrifice of Himself and resurrection yet to occur. Let’s continue; G-d’s not done. Verse 15 “For seven days you are to eat matzah (unleavened bread) – on the first day remove the leaven from your houses.” We go all through the kitchen and anywhere else we keep food and look for food that contain the 5 grains that will cause the food to rise when added to water after 22 minutes. “For whoever eats hametz from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Israel. On the first and the seventh days, you are to have an assembly set aside for G-d. On these days no work is to be done, except what each must do to prepare food; you may only do that.” G-d emphasizes this regulation in verse 17, “You are to observe the festival of matzah, for on this very day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you are to observe this day from generation to generation by a perpetual regulation.” For a third time G-d says in verse 18, “From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah. During those seven days, no leaven is to be found in your houses. Whoever eats food with hametz in it is to be cut off from the community of Israel.” – it doesn’t matter whether he is a foreigner or a citizen of the land. Eat nothing with hametz in it. Wherever you live, eat matzah.” It is clear we are to separate ourselves from sin. And what exactly is sin according to the Bible? We find the answer in 1 John 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” We may think for instance, that having a few crumbs of leavened bread won’t hurt anything. Or we may think that if we have leavened bread in the freezer, it’s ok, we just won’t open the package. But G-d uses the analogy of hametz in describing sin in our lives. Leaven puffs up the dough much as pride puffs us up. You cannot separate one little yeast grain from the rest. Once it is activated, it permeates the entire lump of dough. Such is the nature of sin. We may think we can handle temptation; one drink, one touch or flirtatious smile, or celebration of one pagan holiday. But Yosef knew that to flirt with temptation is to face ultimate defeat (Gen. 39:12). We cannot say for sure if Joseph was tempted. Regardless, he did not remain in a position to follow through with any thoughts he may have had at the time. Eve’s encounter with the serpent (Gen. 3:1-6) is an example of what happens when we tarry with temptation. She gave the serpent time to convince her, to seduce her, to carry out his plan resulting in a seemingly minor indiscretion that affected all of humanity and its relationship to everything else in the universe. We are to clean our homes and our lives of every trace leaven. This is a lifelong process. G-d repeats this command twice more in verses 24 and 25.
Verse 34 makes an interesting statement. The people took their dough before it had become leavened and wrapped their kneading bowels in their clothes on their shoulders. Could this be compared to putting on a tallit (prayer shawl) or the mantle of G-d’s Torah of sorts? The dough is without leaven representing no sin, and placed on their shoulders to be carried out of sinful Egypt into the wilderness experience. Recall that the Ark of the Covenant was carried on the shoulders also.
In verse 38 we are told of a mixed multitude that accompanied the Israelites. These people were considered fellow travelers and as such partook of all the regulations and blessings of the Israelites. There were obviously non-Hebrews traveling with Israel, much as there are Gentiles traveling spiritually with Israel today. Remember that Kelev (Caleb) was a Gentile. Again the consistency of G-d and His Torah are demonstrated throughout the entire Torah. G-d’s provision for the proselyte (who by the way chooses to follow G-d and His Torah freely) is mentioned again in Ex. 12:48. This is one of the many passages in which the Torah requires that a proselyte be treated as equal with all other Jews, both in their responsibility to observe G-d’s commands, festivals, regulations, and laws, and in reaping the blessings given by G-d to His people. Finally in Ex. 13:3 the word remember used in “Remember this day on which you departed from Egypt” is the infinitive form, implying that the Exodus should be remembered constantly. In rabbinic Judaism the rabbis state that we must recall the Exodus specifically every day fulfilled by the recitation of the third paragraph of the Sh’ma, which ends by saying that G-d took the Jewish people out of Egypt (Rashi). Note that we are not told to lament or wish for our past conditions or surroundings. I submit this is the difference between looking back as did Lot’s wife resulting in her death, and looking back to remember how YHVH/Yahshua delivered us and the Ruach helps us on a daily basis.
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
Our Sidrah is complimented by prophecy of another defeat for Egypt that will take place eight centuries later. While Egypt was competing for world domination, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia would totally defeat them. Jeremiah described Egypt’s hopelessness against Babylon, after making clear the reason for Egypt’s defeat was a result of their haughtiness and rejection of G-d’s dominion. This haftarah ends with the good news that Jacob (Israel) need not fear. Although Jacob will be punished for past transgressions (and that is why the name Jacob is used instead of Israel), his enemies will be destroyed. Jacob will survive and become stronger than ever. However, their survival is dependent on service of G-d. This is no different that our salvation once we are reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice (See Rom. 3:25; 2Pet. 1:9). When we strive to follow G-d’s Torah out of love and obedience, we have His assurance that we will emerge triumphantly in the end.
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 16:1-21
1 The seven bowls of G-d’s fury spoken of in Chap. 15:1,7-8, contain the third set of seven judgments in this book, the others being the seal judgments, and the shofar judgments. The bowl judgments are poured out in this chapter.
2 Similar to the Anthrax plague that affected only the Egyptians in Ex. 9:8-11, these sores appear only on unbelievers (the people who take the mark of the beast and worship its image). Verse 11 speaks of arrogance equal to that of Pharaoh. Despite the pain of the sores, these people remain hardened. They never turn from their sins to glorify G-d (v. 9) but curse him to the end (v.21). They exercise their free will and G-d allows it!
5 O HaKadosh used in this verse is a term applied to Yahshua as Messiah
as evidenced by Acts 2:27, 13:35, quoting Psalm 16:10
9-10 This is the B’rit Chadasha’s most cogent description of the usual behavior pattern of those who totally harden their hearts toward G-d as did Pharaoh. They curse the Name of G-d instead of turning from their sins and giving Him glory. This is in direct rebellion to His stated purpose for humankind; to glorify Him so the nations will know He is Adonai. Being antinomians, anti-Torah, and materialistic, they remain unrepentant.
12-16 The sixth bowl dries up the Euphrates so that the kings from the east can cross over to attack. The unclean spirits looked like frogs but are
miracle-working demonic spirits who go out to the kingdoms of the
world to assemble them for the final battle at Armageddon. Yahshua
inserts a reminder that He is coming like a thief in the night, and that we
must remain steadfast in Torah even then.
17-21 The seventh bowl reveals flashes of lightning, thunder, and the greatest earthquake known to man. The Great Babylon is made to drink the cup of G-d’s fury. Every island and mountain disappears. Seventy-pound
hailstones fall on the people, yet they still curse Him (Always somebody
else’s fault!). Note the statement that “great city was split into three
parts” refers to Jerusalem! (Jeremiah Chapter 25). There is a debate
about whether this applies to Bavel and/or Jerusalem. However,
after reading the text closely and looking at the sentence structure, I am
of the opinion that this scripture is speaking of judgment on Jerusalem
and it is split into three parts. Regardless, we will be held accountable for
our sins; either in the form of temporal punishment, or the loss of
rewards in the world to come, just as were the Egyptians, Pharaoh, and
those Israelites who rebelled against Adonai in the desert.
It is no accident that in this parashah, the section that deals with the culminating plagues and the Exodus should turn three times to the subject of children and the duty of parents to educate them. As Jews, we believe that to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need education. Freedom is lost when it is taken for granted. Unless parents (or clergy who properly teach G-d’s Torah) hand down their education and experiences to the next generation, the story of freedom and how to handle adversity is lost. What is fascinating in G-d’s Torah is the way it emphasizes the fact that the children must ask questions. This is mentioned in Ex. 12:26-27; Ex. 13:14). It is the duty of parents and teachers to encourage children/students to ask questions. It is of little value to attend a class of any kind unprepared. The information will not be retained. It is a religious obligation to teach children/students to ask questions and explore their innate sense of wonder. This is how they and we grow (See Deut. 6:4-11).
Judaism is not a religion of blind obedience. Written into the very structure of Hebraic consciousness is the idea that our highest duty is to seek to understand the will of G-d, not just to obey it blindly because we believe that intelligence is one of G-d’s greatest gifts to humanity. Our Torah walk is on the steps of prayerful understanding and discernment that improves as we study, pray, learn, and obey. This should be our credo.
Just as the children of Israel were preparing to leave Egypt and begin their walk with G-d, Moshe tells the people to hand down this memory to their children as commanded by G-d through the mandate of celebrating Pesach. Indeed, during the Seder, the youngest child who can read asks questions. Once the truth has been shown, it must be internalized and acted upon. Children/students/congregants should not ask the same question repeatedly, for this simply demonstrates a lack of attention to the answer and a desire to aggrandize oneself in front of others. It accomplishes quite the opposite!
Another important point for parents and teachers to emphasize is that not all questions have immediate answers. Some require age and experience. Others take years of intellectual preparation. Still others cannot be answered at this stage in G-d’s timetable.
Although we may not know what we do not know, if we remain diligent in our walk toward YHVH/Yahshua, He will teach us everything we need to know for the purpose He has for our life at the perfect time.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart