by Rabbi Michael Schwab
For hundreds of years the Israelites have been enslaved. In our parsha this week, Bo, they are finally set free. For sure this is a moment of great celebration — the Israelites have finally gotten what they wished for over the course of so many generations. Interestingly though, the Torah does not initially speak about the Exodus in a primarily joyous context. We will have to wait for the next parshah for that after the splitting of the sea. Instead, our parsha speaks immediately about how this incredible event in the history of our people should be remembered and made sacred in the future. As the Torah transitions, “ (41) It was at the end of 430 years . . . that all of the hosts of the Lord departed from Egypt . . . (42) it is a night of vigilance of the Lord . . . (43) The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, this is the state of the Pascal lamb . . .” Almost immediately after describing the Israelites finally leaving Egypt the Torah transitions to describing the Passover holiday that will be celebrated by future generations and concludes the Torah portion on this subject alone.
What is the message here? Why state the unbelievable fact of the Exodus and go right into speaking about the holiday of Passover? I believe that the Torah is reminding us that when something life-changing occurs, we should not only celebrate it in the moment but find a way to incorporate the meaning behind what has occurred into the rest of our lives. A joyous celebration would be welcome and appropriate but that celebration will end and life will move forward. The question is whether the wonderful turn of events will change the way you live moving forward and be appreciated in the future. By immediately marking the miracle of the Exodus with a sacred ritual that will be observed for all time, the Israeilites will be able to take their appreciation for what occurred, as well as the lessons they learned, well into the future and even pass them on to future generations.
Thus the Torah gives us an important perspective on how to view such events in our own lives. And what is more, the Torah teaches us that we should appreciate the great gift that sacred ritual gives to us, which allows us to re-live the great lessons and miracles of our ancestors each and every year.