Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bo
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 6 5777
The dramatic story of the Exodus is coming to its conclusion in this week’s Sedra; did you know it’s in parshat Bo, not B’Shalach – where the Exodus actually occurs?

But before Bnei Yisrael exits Egypt, the Torah narrative is abruptly interrupted so that Hashem can issue a very unusual commandment, "Ha-Chodesh ha’zeh lachem," installing Nisan as the 1st official month in the Hebrew
calendar. Though the world was indeed created in Tishrei, life, in a sense, begins anew when the Jewish nation is launched. A very flattering proclamation – accentuating the centrality of the Jewish People – but one that seems a bit out of place. Why didn’t this come after the plagues were over, and we were out of slavery and out of Egypt, safely en route to Israel? Why is it davka injected here?

Chazal explain: Hashem was telling the people: "Until now your time was not your own; you were on someone else’s clock. But now, you will be in control of your own time and your own schedule – it will be "lachem," yours to
use or abuse. Your time, day by day, is a precious gift; what you do with it will determine whether you lead a life of liberated glory, or slavish irrelevance. This is precisely why I am freeing you!"

And so immediately after this command is given, Hashem lists all the many Mitzvot connected with Pesach, our most intricate, law-laden festival, so as to illustrate just how we are to spend our days and best utilize our time.

Now, one of these laws is to bake Matzot, which we would later carry with us on our journey to Israel. But the question here is obvious: If we were told to bake Matzot on the 1st of Nisan, and we only left Egypt two full weeks
later, why the need to bake it in such a rush, within 18 minutes?! Why not just take our sweet time?!

But this is exactly the point: The Matzot symbolize that time is fleeting and life is short, and we must make certain to utilize every precious moment of the life and time allotted to us by the Almighty. Just as the only difference between
bread and matza – which share the same ingredients - is Time, so, too, the difference between a life fulfilled and a failed life is how we spent our time on this Earth.

Chicago - and its suburb Skokie, where I studied in Yeshiva – can be a very cold place in the winter. But our classroom always had an open window, such that at times we wore coats and gloves while learning Gemara. "You’ll sleep in the next world," our rebbe, Rav Herzl Kaplan zt"l would often say. "In this world, you will do, not dream." The old cliche still says it best: It’s not the years in our life, but the life in our years that really counts.

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