The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bo: The First Passover

This week's Torah portion consists of the final three plagues and the first Passover. There is a plague of locusts and a plague of darkness, which the Torah describes as tangible, which is intriguing. In each case, Pharaoh concedes to Moses and Aaron, only to have God harden his heart, and take back his offer. God lets Moses and Aaron know that he is doing this so that future generations will know that the House of Israel began with ten miraculous plagues, and that the final plague, that of the Firstborn sons of men and beasts, will become firmly affixed with the nation of Israel in the collective psyches of the survivors.

In order that the destroyer does not slay the Israelites with the Egyptians, God commands the Israelites to slaughter young ruminants, either lambs or kids, and to splash their blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. The inhabitants are to eat the whole animal, who is not to be dressed or beheaded, and eat as much of it as they can, burning the remains to ashes that they cannot consume. They are to cook their dough without letting it rise, and to eat unleavened bread for the next seven days. They are to eat fully clothed, with their belongings packed up, and their staves in their hands, ready to make their escape. The day before, each Israelite is to borrow from their Egyptian neighbors as much gold and silver as they can carry (and God will move the hearts of the Egyptians to give it to them), so that they will have a treasury with which to form the new nation.

A Jewish tradition from a Baraita (from outside of Talmud or Midrash) tells that in the time of Alexander the Great, the Egyptians brought the Israelites before Alexander and charged them with borrowing and never returning their gold and silver, and demanded a fair return. In their defense, Gebiah ben Pesisa, speaking on behalf of the Israelites, asked the Egyptians for evidence, and the Egyptians presented the Torah as evidence, opened to Exodus 12: 36. Gebiah also presented the Torah, opened to Exodus 12: 40, and demanded back wages for 600,000 men for 430 years of slavery. The Egyptians, the Baraita informs us, dropped their case.

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