Parashat Bo

Keeping Faith

Just as the Israelites maintained their faith through nine plagues, none of which succeeded in convincing Pharaoh to free them, we too should develop our ability to have faith in times of darkness.

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Provided by the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America.

Parashah Overview

  • God sends the plagues of locusts and darkness upon Egypt and forewarns Moses about the final plague, the death of every Egyptian firstborn. Pharaoh still does not let the Israelites leave Egypt. (Exodus 10:1-11:10)

  • God commands Moses and Aaron regarding the Passover festival. (Exodus 12:1-27)

  • God enacts the final plague, striking down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt except those of the House of Israel. Pharaoh now allows the Israelites to leave. (Exodus 12:29-42)

  • Speaking to Moses and Aaron, God repeats the commandments about Passover. (Exodus 12:43-13:16)

Focal Point

Then Adonai said to Moses, "Hold out your arm toward the sky that there may be darkness upon the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be touched." Moses held out his arm toward the sky, and thick darkness descended upon all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was; but all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings.

Pharaoh then summoned Moses and said, "Go, worship Adonai! Only your flocks and your herds shall be left behind; even your children may go with you." But Moses said, "You yourself must provide us with sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer up to Adonai our God; our own livestock, too, shall go along with us--not a hoof shall remain behind, for we must select from it for the worship of Adonai our God; and we shall not know with what we are to worship Adonai until we arrive there." (Exodus 10:21-26)

Your Guide

What is "a darkness that can be touched?"

Why does the Torah first state that people could not see one another and afterward mention that they could not move around?

Since the plague of darkness occurred before the discovery of electricity, what was the light that the Israelites "enjoyed" in their dwellings?

The events in Exodus 10:1-12:28 take place just before the last plague, during which the Israelite firstborns are saved by the mark of lamb's blood on their doorposts. How do you think that God knew which houses were inhabited by Israelites in order to save them from the first nine plagues?

The Torah takes five full chapters to discuss the ten plagues. Why does it give such a detailed description of each plague when only the last one was successful?

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Rabbi Donald A. Weber

Rabbi Donald A. Weber is the spiritual leader of Temple Rodeph Torah of Western Monmouth, Marlboro, NJ.