Diversity D’var

A collection of commentaries on weekly parshiyot written by members, scholars and partners highlighting themes such as diversity, discrimination, and inclusivity in Jewish tradition.

This Week's Diversity D'var

Parshat Bo: Escaping Limitations

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By Rabbi Yonosan Perry

 

The first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (affectionately known as the Alter (old) Rebbe, is quoted as saying, “צייט דער מיט לעבן באדארף מען אז” (we must live with the times). According to the old chassidim, this means that one is to learn the parsha, then apply and live by it that week. This week’s parsha is Parshas Bo. The time has come for the Jews to leave Egypt, and Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu “Come (Bo) to Pharaoh”. The use of the term “come” as opposed to “go” seems quite peculiar and has been debated by sages and rabbis alike for many years. The Zohar explains that Hashem is telling Moshe Rabbeinu to come with Him to Pharaoh. As we can see, the plagues begin to be a bit more obvious in their origin from Gd, as opposed to being clothed within nature as the previous ones had been.

 

The theme of this parsha, is the exodus from Egypt. Moshe Rabbeinu informs the Jewish people of their impending escape and instructs everyone in the process of the Passover seder. Along with the particulars of carrying out the Passover seder, he then tells the people to “remember this day on which you went out of Egypt..” Here we are taught about the importance of honoring our ancestors and past generations for all that they accomplished for us.

 

In his magnum opus, the “Tanya” the Alter Rebbe brings a Mishnah from the Talmud volume entitled Pesachim which states “In each and every generation, a person must see himself as if he had personally escaped from Egypt (each and every day).” He explains that the Hebrew word for “Egypt” (metzrayim) is a derivative of the word “metzar” which means barrier or limitation. We can thus see that the lesson is that every person must strive “each and every day” to escape from our own limitations.

 

This week marks the beginning of Black history month. What once began as a commemorative week honoring black history, we are reminded of all of the wonderful accomplishments that were achieved under harsh limitations and barriers both internal and external. To follow the directive of the Alter Rebbe and “live with the times”, it is important that we remember all that our ancestors have done for us and for the world at large, and honor them by continuing to leave our own limitations “each and every day”, until we reach the ultimate and final redemption with the coming of Moshiach.

 

Discussion questions:

  • What are specific ways we can leave our own limitations?
  • It seems particularly relevant that we must each see ourselves as if we each personally escaped from Egypt. What are current ways we can put that concept into practice?

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Rabbi Yonosan Perry studied in Lubavitch yeshiva and received smicha from Machon L’Horaah from Rav Nachman Wilhelm and Rav Dovid Shochat. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife and daughter.


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