These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Laura Marder – Parshat Bo

Posted on January 17, 2013 by Laura Marder

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In Parshat Bo we are given the first Mitzvah from G-d. The mitzvah of being aware and sanctifying time with Rosh Chodesh.

“This month shall be to you the head of the months;
to you it shall be the first of the months of the year”.

Bo 11:2

While reading BO I tried to think about if I was a slave and generations before me were also slaves, how would I react to this mitzvah? It is a foreign concept for a slave to want to sanctify time. Time is not a concept that slaves are aware of or have any power over. It is scary to think of the responsibility in having to plan your time wisely all of a sudden. Then I thought, G-d like a good parental figure, had the Jews play an active role in their change, so they felt the personal responsibility to keep it up. They had to take an active role in making their new schedule as a free people. The Jews are given this command and then given the physical task of the pascal lamb.


G-d was emphasizing to the Jewish people in Egypt that they would be a new free people in the month of Nisan. This sense of renewal would be a constant reminder to them and now to us, when we have Rosh Chodesh and look up at the new moon. As the Jews wandered in the desert on their way to Israel, they had the bright moonlight in the sky at night to remind them of how they had promised to sanctify their time. This could have helped them at night when they may have been feeling like they should give up and go back to Egypt. Maybe it helped them lay down at night and try to plan for the future as a free person should.

Lightness to darkness, winter to spring, slavery to freedom, the week to Shabbat, sunrise and sunset etc… G-d is constantly showing us the ability to renew and to change. We must not go with the status quo all the time, we need to michadesh (renew ourselves), constantly moving forward and improving.

The word shanah is connected to the word shinui, meaning change. It is amazing how much your life can change in a year. We can use these structures of renewal and sanctifying time to help change our lives for the better each year. As we go through time we can’t ignore the natural world. We should admire G-d’s creations and note how they renew and change, just as we, who are G-d’s creations,renew and change.

I am very happy to have learned this important concept when I first began my studies at Pardes last year, studying Parshat Bo in Meir’s Bet Chumash. I have seen how fast my time at Pardes has flown by. I have learned that I must take and active part in sanctifying my free time. Lately I have seen that life is tough to plan because we never know what will be thrown our way. If we value all of our moments and welcome the changes that life may bring us, then we are living as free people and have the ability to be happy and productive. Now, more than ever as students at Pardes, we can use our time wisely to learn and take in all we can from our classes, Israel, and the wonderful people we are surrounded by.

Shabbat Shalom