Bo – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis
This week we read about the last of the plagues and the final decision by Pharaoh to “let our people go”. We see Pharaoh forced to accept that his vision of his world is coming apart. Pharaoh’s courtiers say to him, in words that ring out thousands of years later
Are you not yet aware that Egypt is lost?
Our own journey begins with the instruction “zachor”, “remember”.
God tells Moses to instruct the people and sets out a calendar for remembrance
This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year
In order to remember we needed not just a framework in time but also a way of passing on our history our covenant and our relationship with God. It underpins our identity and our future as a people.
And you shall keep this matter as a statute for you and for your children forever.
And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'Because of this, the Lord did this for me when I went out of Egypt.'
Those words are the foundation of the four questions asked in the Seder service. The first three questions concerning Matzo, Bitter herbs and dipping twice can be easily explained. The fourth question about reclining, which we understand to identify our freedom, is more complex. Is it about freedom from slavery or is it a matter of what we do with our freedom?
Freedom can be a physical matter as in Egypt where God intervened or something where we make our own decisions. We often get things wrong; the rest of the Torah is filled with such incidents. A guide for how we should use that precious freedom is actually spelled out at the end of the Sedra; it is the mitzvah of Tefillin
וְהָיָ֤ה לְאוֹת֙ עַל־יָ֣דְכָ֔ה וּלְטֽוֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֣ין עֵינֶ֑יךָ
And it shall be for a sign upon your hand and for ornaments between your eyes