Parshat Bo

January 19th, 2018

We are finally reaching the climax of the Exodus with the Hashem laying down the preparations with the Pascal Lamb leading to the night drama of the killing of the first born and moving out. As part of the preparation for the redemption Hashem tells Moshe and Aaron that Bnei Yisrael should take blood from the lamb and daub it on the door posts and the upper lintel of the door (al shtei mezuzot v’al hamashkof) and this will be a sign for Hashem to pass over those houses and from here we essentially get the name of Pesach – to pass over.  Interestingly when Moshe passes on this instruction to the elders he make some changes firstly he tells them to take a bunch of hyssop or zatar (agudat ezov) and dip it in the blood and then he changes the order and says firstly daub it on the lintel and then on the door posts.

The significance of the lamb and the blood is discussed by many of our sages as a sign of defiance to Egypt and there are differences of opinion whether the blood should be painted on the outgoing or the internal door posts, that is whether it is a sign of defiance to the Egyptians or for Bnei Yisrael themselves. The Abarbanel suggests that the Egyptians were accustomed to put their idolatory signs on the door and so this was showing defiance to them, the Chazkuni notes that the Hebrew word “mashkof” – a lintel comes from the word to look out. R S R Hirsch finds meaning in the concept of protection of the home and those inside, the door posts as two, in the plural, protecting each other and the lintel as protection of Hashem from above.

But why did Moshe change the order and mention the lintel first. Sfrono explains that this was just to say that the order did not matter. The Kli Yakar finds deeper meaning the door posts representing Bnei Yisrael and the lintel the presence of Hashem. Hashem sends a message firstly get yourselves prepared and then Hashem will come to you but Moshe realizes that Hashem needs to provide the push to initiate the redemption process.

Even more interesting is Moshe’s addition of the ezov. R Hirsch suggests the very sound of the word “ezov” suggests a weak type of grass “esev” in Hebrew. He quotes the verse from Kings, discussing Solomon’s wisdom “And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that springs out of the wall”. This indicates a small  plant as opposed to the tall strong Lebanese Cedars,  and the analogy is that the hyssop is just the insignificant means to place the blood on the doorpost, and just as important is the entwining of the three hyssop stalks into a bundle (aguda) to represent a family entwined together doing Hashem’s will.

But I must admit I cannot find many who explains why Moshe of his own accord added the hyssop dipping. Professor Yehuda Felix (1922-2005) who extensively researched biblical plants and species suggests it is definitely the plant we know today as the hyssop whose short hairs would soak up the blood rather like a paintbrush. So perhaps Moshe was concerned for the cleanliness and hygene of the process and that Bnei Yisrael should not have to soil themselves with blood while preparing their getaway.

Nothing to do with the above we are having stormy weather again this Friday and Shabbat as we did two weeks ago. We decided months ago to spend a Shabbat at the kosher hotel in Larnaca Cyprus with a few friends. Last weekend amazingly the weather was really good and we had a great time and would recommend it for a break and there is a very active Chabad round the corner.