Jan 23, 2007

Parshah Bo: Go!

In this parshah are the three final plagues: locusts, darkness and, finally, the death of the first born. The Israelites leave the land, matzot and thousands in tow.

+ Ex. 10:14 "Locusts invaded all the land of Mitzrayim ... never before had there been so many, nor will there ever be so many again." I appreciate knowing that never again will a swarm of locusts be brought upon the land. It's comforting.

Rashi's comments on this:

And the one [the locust plague] that took place in the days of Joel, about which it is said: “the like of which has never been” (Joel 2:2), [from which] we learn that it was more severe than that of [the plague in the days of] Moses-namely because that one was [composed] of many species [of locusts] that were together: arbeh, yelek, chasil, [and] gazam; but [the locust plague] of Moses consisted of only one species [the arbeh], and its equal never was and never will be.
+ Having never read through the Bible/Torah before, even in my youth (I was raised w/o religion, essentially), I was unfamiliar with some of the plagues. Perhaps the one I was most unfamiliar with is the Ninth Plague -- darkness. The sages surmise that it wasn't physical darkness, such as that brought by a sandstorm or eclipse, but rather that it was "a spiritual or psychological darkness, a deep depression." The Torah reads, "People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was" (Ex. 10:23). The commentary comments that people suffering from depression often lack the energy to move about or to concern themselves with others, focusing instead on themselves. Having nearly drowned in the sea of darkness that is depression myself, I read this and am completely overwhelmed. My mother and the man I love both suffer that which was plagued on the Egyptians. A darkness that comes and goes, though.

The commentary reads: "The person who cannot see his neighbor is incapable of spiritual growth, incapable of rising from where he is currently." Amid the Ninth Plague, "People could not see one another." The Catch 22 of depression is that, oftentimes, one feels so absolutely alone that he or she is driven into the depths of darkness where it is most lonely. Yet, if the person is incapable of seeing his or her neighbor to begin with, and within darkness is also unable to see his or her neighbor, what is to release them so that they can attain spiritual growth?

On another note, although I seem to agree in principal that the depressed person typically cannot (rather than does not) concern themselves with others, there's a case from this very day that perhaps proves otherwise. Case: A person in my life is depressed, not wanting to talk, I feel helpless and leave the conversation. Not long after, there is an e-mail expressing hope that I'm not upset regarding the person's depression. Is this not concern for me while depressed? Indeed.

+ I cherish the explanation behind the creation of the Jewish calendar in Ex. 12:2 and why our calendar follows the moon, as opposed to the sun: "Just as G-d showed Noah the rainbow as a sign of the covenant, G-d shows Moses the sliver of the new moon as a symbol of Israel's capacity for constant renewal (Hirsch)." What a brilliant concept and explanation.

+ Ex. 12:24 "You shall observe this as an institution for all time" -- why do we no longer offer up the paschal sacrifice then?

+ Introduction of the "idea" of t'fillin toward the end of parshah Bo (Ex. 13:9). I didn't realize it was introduced so early in Torah, as commonly it's attributed elsewhere, or so I thought! A sign as in "It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt."


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