Exodus 10:1- 13:16
With this week’s Torah portion Bo the last of the plagues are inflicted upon Egypt. These signs and wonders are terror for Egypt but miracles of deliverance for the Hebrew slaves. It is always a matter of perspective. The only thing that protects the Israelites from the final terror of the death of the first born is the blood smeared on the lintels of the Israelite homes as a sign to God. It is a signal to God just as the plagues are a signal to the Hebrew slaves that God has not forgotten the covenant with their ancestors and heard their cries.
The portion ends with further signs and signals to remember these miraculous moments. The Passover offering for all time is described in this week’s portion. This offering eaten together with the whole family is offered as a reminder of this redemption. The festival of Aviv is described as a further remembrance of the Exodus. This includes eating unleavened bread which we call Matzot. And further the portion describes the dedication of the first born of the womb to God. Even as God took the first born of Egypt, the first born of the Israelite nation would be dedicated to God. Another sign of remembrance in this portion is the description of the tefillin worn on the hand and head as yet another sign.
Clearly, this moment in Jewish history, the exodus is of critical importance. We are told to remember it through the food we eat, the children we birth, the ritual items we wear. We are to keep this moment between our eyes and on our sleeve!
In other words, do not forget this moment of redemption. Do not forget the central role of the Divine in the moment of freedom and liberation. Every moment of freedom comes from God: that moment so many centuries ago in Egypt and moments of freedom now. Humanity might cruelly enslave one another, but freedom comes with God. This is an essential message of Judaism and a gift to the world.
When we tap into that power of God in our own lives we gain a freedom of thought and action that can lift us to achieve our highest goals. God flows through us. And these signs and symbols allow us to focus our thoughts, energy and help us direct that Divine flow.
So as we read this week’s culmination of the 10 plagues think of how you will remember that it was God who set the Israelites free and how it will be God who sets you free. What are the signs you will offer to yourself and what are the signs and signals you will share with God that you remember and honor this part of your own history? What are the signs and symbols you will offer to help you find your own freedom granted by God?