Parshat Bo: Jewish in Public and Private

1.22 Parshat Bo: Jewish in Public and Private

Written by cheri

The Pesach story continues in this week’s Torah Portion, “Bo.” God instructs the Jews to sacrifice a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts. But for what purpose? So God, or the “Destroyer” (mashchit) would know where the Jews lived?

This, to me, doesn’t make any sense. The previous plague, darkness, afflicted only the Egyptians. If darkness knew where the Jews lived, couldn’t the “Destroyer?”

I believe there is a hidden message here. Why sacrifice a lamb? Because it was worshiped by the Egyptians. The Israelites were to parade the lamb through the city and then slaughter it before the Egyptians’ eyes.

Kind of like daring to kill a cow in India.

But in the danger of this act lay the whole meaning: it was a test and a challenge.  The Jews were asked to openly defy the Egyptians and thus prove trust in God. The test helped the “Destroyer” identify where the believing Israelites lived.

There was a time, in America, when Jews celebrated their Judaism in private, but publicly sought to blend in. Today, we seem to have a reversal: Jews are very comfortable expressing their Judaism in public (attending Israel rallies, affixing beautiful mezzuzot to the front door, wearing kipot at work), but privately Jewish practice is neglected.

Kiddush cups remain on the shelf, ketubot (Jewish marriage documents) are stored in drawers, prayerbooks and humashim gather dust.

Let’s be counted among the Jews whose Judaism is seamless–celebrated both inside and out.

-Rabbi David Vorspan, Rabbi-in-Residence.

Rabbi David Vorspan

Rabbi David Vorspan